Dear Sister Robertson
Dear / Sister Vancouver/
Dear Sister Robertson
Dear / Sister Vancouver/
My father, he loved trees
but I’m not sure he loved me quite as much
I know he loved the trees cuz twenty-something sweaty sun-baked holes got dug
a double shovel handle, hungry razor jaw,
hinged post-hole digger slammed
again again again
he pulled the earth and shook the sods
as if extracting rattler fangs
he pounded on
the iron mouthbit ringing out and splitting rocks
deep deeper in the heart of Chiggerville
until the acre lot out front became a bumpy scarred up place
full of tree holes for twenty- something root balls
then while he cut and pulled the twine and burlap
he sent me off and running to turn the tough red faucet
my slippery little hands just could not grip
and so I swung and kicked my whole child self
I hung in hopes I’d budge it
long last…..I did
It hissed and sighed the breath of life
it made the heavy green snake jump beneath bare feet
it came to life
a hundred feet of twitching, pulsing, jerking, muscle
Again again, my father quenched their thirst
and so, I know he loved his trees
besides, I hauled a hundred times five-gallon buckets with him
his hands were strong and calloused
the bucket handles cut my hands to blisters
And all the time, there in the shade, my brother chopped the bamboo
behind the Air Force barack, make-shift house
he worked for pennies
He couldn’t stop the rooted beasts from growing
along the flood plane, the bamboo grew an inch or two each day
nothing could stop it, not even ten times ten machettes splaying
He could have worked all day and night and never gained the upper hand
I never understood this rite of boyhood or preferential treatment
and all the while the bamboo grew
and all the while my father hoped his trees would too
I think the bamboo knew …the work of growing…better than most
It was something magic
I think my father wished this magic bamboo spell upon his trees
and prayed they would take root and grow as fast
my father loved his trees this much and more
more than the bamboo in the backyard, more than the sun
he watched them every one just like a sentinel
within the moonlight
beneath the stars
beyond the fireflies and cricket chorus
he heard the dance of armadillos
the shift and shuffle of their midnight rounds
the claw and tear and gnaw of tender shoots and roots
This made him crazy
one night I saw my father leave with haste
with gritting teeth, chest pounding
he set an angry jaw and slammed the screen door shut
then left a trail of choice words through the night air
I listened through the heat but could not see or hear much
until the painful screams began to work their terror on me
a shadow of a man with claw in hand
a bloody, muscly ball of armor jumping, squeeling
a scalloped, hairy rodent trying to flee
In time the bludgeoning hammer stopped
the air was thick and still and silent and dad returned without a word
his pants were torn and garment top was bloody
His face was red with pride
and he was smiling through the blood and dirt and sweat
He loved his trees… no doubt about it…he proved it
but I’m not sure he loved me quite as much.
A decade passed.
I went to college,
partly by luck on scholarship and paid the rest
I bought a junk heap car and got my license on my own
some Saturdays I drove the fifteen miles home when not at work
he’d be there in the yard with hose in hand
tending the trees
admiring their leaves
glowering over a first pear or peach, boasting a nut yield
cracking small pecan shells
even if it was only a dozen cracks a year
I never seemed to please him in this way
Sometimes I wonder what our life would be….. if he,
if we…. had stayed on there deep in the heart of Texas
awhile on Weil, on that land and in the Ping Pong House
another wet season on Wetz; in that strange house on stilts
if dad hadn’t had the heart attack
or retired early, or moved out West to rest.
He would have seen those trees grow to maturity
in all their fruit and beauty
They grew up….I saw them
three decades later on an autumn holiday
We, the trees and I, we had our own reunion
They were magnificent
I wonder what dad would have said, if he were living and thriving then and now
just like his trees
perhaps he’d hear them speak the Wisdom he was seeking
when he loved them
I think he’s growing trees again and wishing he had me to help him
(random image from Google images; just playing at found poetry)
she travels wild sands
turns warrior pose
away to see a tameless mane
froth and whirl
effaced salt mist
heartbeat and thunder
a tree ear pressed to the pounding ground
adept to hearing tangled
wild creatures netted in the surge
heart caverns home to swirling
dirge of a restless
Orange clove mind
mist, boxing gloves
pens and Art
My heart cries tonight at this site. A construction crew came through this week. They installed a high pressure pipe irrigation system in place of the old ditch flood system. Tonight when the rain stopped and the sun broke through, I took a walk down the fence line to look it over. That’s when reality set in. Every bit of marvelous milkweed is gone. Not a leaf or stick remains. A 150 year flood irrigation system and wetland ecosystem has been altered forever and I am heart broken. When the Monarchs return there will be nothing here for them. Nothing… unless there is milkweed growing in the riparian zone closer to the Weber River, three hundred yards away. As for me, I gifted away all the milkweed seed I had harvested. I am just so sad about this.
Today I am thankful…
for good witches (not the bad ones found jelly side down in a sand box,
or the frightening warty ones of literary and cinema horror stories,
but good ones…..like Glinda, and Elphaba, and Xan, and teachers
who clap their hands believing in fairies and scatter pixie dust
some flying with wings and gold and rainbows
Some reading Roald Dahl…with or without gloves and square-toed shoes.
Which ones?……good women, with kind thoughts, understanding hearts,
and who have each others backs
*I am thankful too for
gobblers ( ha ha…..not of the turkey kind……but of the children kind
(sometimes hungry, and sometimes not, but more often than not,
birds of a feather, grateful for the snacks I scatter before them)
I am thankful
my life does not depend on eating some of that turkey feed and…….Seaweed.
It was March, and the Moon was full of milk, like a first time Spring heifer about to calve. It was the week of Dads and Doughnuts, and Read Across America, when on a whim, I bought a package of dried seaweed at Whole Foods. Oh, the Places I go. This school year, I have a student who loves the stuff, and just for kicks I decided to taste it. I was dying to know what the draw was. Why did he love the stuff so much.
After one bite, I discovered there is no draw for me. Zilch. Zero. Nada. No magnetism. Let’s just say I experienced the Law of Repulsion. Barfo! It smelled and tasted like…goldfish food. Yes. I have tasted goldfish food. So along with that bite of seaweed, I think I drank more water in five minutes than I had all day that Saturday…and that was a double Title work-out day, which meant mega hydration.
So, I sat in Pearl, carefully chewing, nose plugged so as not to taste the smell. I imagined the green stuff as green eggs n ham. I was hoping Seuss’s Magic would work on me. Initially, the stuff crackled and mixed with saliva like a thin slice of celophane. Thoughts left Mulberry Street and meandered toward Sassman and Wetz Lanes , backroads of my rural Texas upbringing. Memories of well-done scrambled eggs filled my brain. I held these heavenly haloed on my tongue. The scabby skiffs of egg-run residues. I concentrated my tongue, like a spatula scraping a ring around the teflon rim of the frying pan. The egg pan trimmings were my favorite thing about breakfast as a kid. Better than bacon. Sweeter than juice. I loved making a quick collection of crusty protein. So with a fast greasy finger, I garnered these, as if playing with fire, trying not to get burned on the still-hot pan before mom could catch me and take the turner.
Turn the clock forward forty years. The whole time, at Whole Foods, while in that awful cud chewing mouthful moment, even the best imagining could NOT make the seaweed taste good. So, like the creative stack and stockpiler I am, I saved the despicable thing. Rather than toss it to the trash, I took the seaweed to school and stashed it on top of a rolling bookshelf. Just knowing I had attempted eating the stuff, was worthy of a prize ribbon. Just possessing some of it, felt just as empowering toward magikal, because I knew it would only be a matter of time before a certain little boy would want it. There: along-side a plethora of skinny, fine-tip markers, crisp roll of golden tickets, and sundry master copies of just run, or needing to be run Reading Street tests and practice sheets. Yesterday’s custodial pen and pencil pick-ups, Sleddy the Snowman who is still counting down the days until next Christmas, and Rusty, the recess cowbell, had nothing on the seaweed pack as I would discover.
Student: (with a Big Smile, drawing out my name) “Mrs. Rrrrrrr, Can I have a piece of
Teacher: ” Did your dad bring a supply to Mrs. Beamann yet?”
Teacher: “I guess your dad needs to do his homework then.”
Student: “The China people live too far away for them to get it.”
Teacher: ” Your dad doesn’t have to go to China to get seaweed. There is a store in the city, less than an hour from here. And…..the workers don’t live in China either.”
Student: “I know. My dad has been too busy….(endless excuses)”
Teacher: “Maybe you should work on your dad instead of working on me. He needs to do his homework. If you want seaweed, your dad will have to bring it to Mrs. Beaman.”
Student: “Okaaaaaay.” ( Pause. I am doing homework check-in and attendance, etc. Student is standing next to me.)
Teacher: “Do you know how most mornings I am the one checking in on you, asking how your morning is going and if you have eaten breakfast?”
Teacher: “Well, today, you might need to be asking ME those questions. I had a really rough start this morning. But the good news is……even though it started out that way, I can still choose to make today a happy day. You know, you can make it happy too. Does that make sense?”
Teacher: “Good.” (Student slinks back unsatisfied to his desk, continues to stall and does not comply with work requests. Picks up a book called Explorers and reads, rather than working on an Ipad task.)
Teacher: (Lets it go, realizing that INTEREST drives reading……and Reading is good and better than no reading.)
(Rewind to approximately 30 minutes earlier)
I notice daylight permeating the peach and mauve-acado J.C. Penny floral curtains
Sit stark upright, wondering if it is Friday
Nope it WASN’T!!!! (That was tomorrow’s Snow Day holiday)
Dove into a pile of pillows to retrieve a cell phone
Discovered to my horror it truly was…..7:39 a.m.
It was a school day
The Benedryl sleeping pill had done the job…..TOO WELL
Knocking me out like a Title prize fighter!
And so, with a head ringing like a bell
I called for help.
All day long…..
I am grateful for Mrs. S. for opening up my classroom, letting in the children, and for cracking the iPad safe.
I am thankful for Mrs. B.
for sitting with the children until I arrived 20 minutes later
New SPEED RECORD
I am thankful I made it to school ALIVE without incident
and that I slowed to 20 mph in the school zones
even in a fuzzy state of dishevelment, without a morning routine,
without beloved COFFEE
ambrosia of the gods
without deodorant, oblivious to the sunrise, and without thoughtful morning prayer,
With the biggest Benedryl hangover headache possible
I arrived ALIVE.
So thankful for Mrs. B……for B-ing there.
Thankful for students who
are kind and get to work without too many questions.
Thankful for the Office help and for a shorty-bus shuttle
to the swimming pool so we didn’t have to walk in the snow and rain
the 2×2 blocks to and from the high school pool.
I am thankful for space, and for quiet recovery to go sit in Pearl and to put on
make-up in a belated parking lot ritual
I am thankful for
a prayer of quiet gratitude
I am grateful for no judgement
No one there, aware, and judging the state of my mind and my physical appearance
in this moment.
I am thankful for imagination
and for my Savior’s arms around me
as I realize…….everything is okay and is going to be okay.
I also realize…….I have a sleep problem, among other problems
that I wish to overcome
but I am really just very thankful……that I woke up.
Later I see a friend. She is hanging Art in the kiva. They are the pixelated pictures; a product of the practice of “Seeing” things as they are. I tell my friend what happened. She listens and cares. Then she shares some scary personal stories about a family member with sleep problems. The individual was so out-of-it on pills, that she would wake in the middle of the night in a zombie state and cook food. One night she almost burned down the house. Wow!
I am thankful……that I don’t cook…(ha ha)…(under the influence)
and that the only waking I do (in the night)
is in a hot flash, or
is to go to the bathroom
or to make the cold, hard wood floor walk, to fill my green plastic, bed-side water cup.
I am thankful I can walk… with and without pain. And I am thankful for water.
I am thankful for school lunch……..cuz I was soooo hungry today.
Not even a Yoohoo snack drink, almonds, and two fist-fulls of Cheeze-its would quell my churning stomach.
I am thankful… (that I don’t have four stomachs like cows do….or otherwise…
I might have had 4 times the hunger)
I am thankful…
for kind lunch ladies who make it my way, right away, and don’t mind customizing
the lucky red tray
without, chips, cake, cookies, and cinnamon rolls, even though all of these things are homemade and delicious.
I am thankful for protein and carb cycling
for baked chicken and homemade rolls,
for green salad, with Ranch dressing and dried blueberries (bugs).
And….I am thankful I am frequently caught on the knot of lunch room tug-o-war,
being beckoned by my children to eat with them.
(12:00 pm, Lunch)
Seaweed Kid: “Mrs. R., will you sit by me?”
Teacher: (Slight pause. Whispering heart) (Enthusiastic) “YES.”
Student: “I get to sit by the BEST teacher ever.”
Teacher: “I’m glad you are feeling happy today.” I sit down and begin eating french fries.
Student: “Mrs. R., You are loved.” (Student half-hugs me.)
Teacher: “I’m glad you are feeling good today. You know, I don’t always feel loved.”
Student: “Well, you are!”
Teacher: “Thank you.” ( I imagine this has something to do with me inviting students to have inside recess in our classroom with Legos, rather than face the chaos of inside recess in the gym.)
I am thankful for
inside recess (at least for today)
for happy, playfully engaged children
and for seeing stormy weather as an opportunity
And so…… I host the Lego Club and another edition of
“Robotic Starbucks of the Future” as it is wonderfully imagined by my 4th graders.
I am also thankful
I could rescue two girls from the wrath of a witchy teacher casting dark spells
outside her own territory. So, I was Glad to welcome in with a wink, two girls form another class as my own, who had curiously gone rogue from the gym to find safe haven in my classroom.
I am thankful for smiles
from those girls and others who chose to build domino trains and “gears” into engineering something future-rama.
I am grateful for many things, not the least of which are my 4th grade gobblings,
one of which covets a nasty feather-weight seaweed pack, that I keep as a reminder of leveraged power
that is …….the Power
to do good or to reward good on my terms, with Love and Logic,
And so I will end with this….
and promptly make a sandwich made for gobbling
Title two-a-day, life guard,
stiff sore water play
daddy-daughter dance display,
Barnes and Noble, Lego sets
working sons who don’t forget…
black molasses scenic ways
Olympic back scratch get-away
meditation mind sway
I am music
and still light