Wednesday, June 3, 2009
(written March 26, 2009)
Dedicated to Karim & Jennifer
I wake up to the not so far off rumble
Of Mount Redoubt, esteemed Volcano Mother of
The Land of Ten Thousand Volcanoes, down the street and
The land line ringing off the hook, three loud br-rings! before I reach
To say hello! Flipping on KBBI 890 Homer, PBS to hear a volcano ashfall
Advisory "...in effect from noon to four p.m."...then the voice on the other end
Again, "Mom, there's three! Triplets!" Hold fast there girl!
"I'm so scared." You can do this. Anchor yourself there girl-woman!
Before the noon day sun is hidden behind gray dust,
A miracle has dawned in the labyrinth of our old, deep love, that
Love that, when it chooses, comes right into the house,
Doesn't even take off its shoes. Whoosh! Pushs molten rocks up and off
Like they're marbles, shakes out the hair and flings open the windows.
Later, after the advisory is called off, all of my laughter comes.
I run down the bluff to the beach
Tell the sea, "Thank you ! Thank you! Thank you!
I tell the sky, "Thank you ! Thank you! Thank you!"
I kneel on the ground in ash, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
And then I turn in the direction of Mount Redoubt, and this is where
All of my tears come. I shout "Yes! Yes! Yes!'
And the word carries me all the way up to high tide and
The waves lapping the shore, as if to agree with me, their sounds
Say yes, as does the wind, and Mount Redoubt, and the earth making this
Huge Great Birthday Cake, Creating the Universe. I thank you.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
One of my two grandmothers had these incredible huge sunflowers growing on the borders of her garden. She told stories, played guitar, and sang ballads. I sat rapt at her feet. She always had an apron on and was either gathering food from the hen house and garden, or preparing it for others in her kitchen.
I only saw my other grandmother once before she died, as we lived far from her in another state. I was five years old when she died unexpectedly and young.
During an especially difficult period in my life, I began to imagine peripheral glimpses of her in the grocery store, just around the corner of the next aisle, or passing by me on a road, or just in front of me, as I drove. The sightings comforted me.
Of course I knew that she was long dead, but I had subconsciously recorded bits and pieces about her from things overheard, stories told, comments made by my mother.
We make meaning of our lives through story. When I needed her most, my maternal grandmother’s story came to my conscious awareness and I drew solace and nurturing from it, even imagining her ghost. Like my paternal grandmother, she was a musician. She sang and played piano in nightclubs during the jazz age.
My grandmothers would never dream of calling themselves artists. They did the right thing, as mothers will do, put the needs of their children and families first, and they made music while they did it.
When invited to participate in Her-story Exhibit II, it was my grandmothers’ voices I heard. Their stories, and that of the women I come from, are the stories of women everywhere. They not only adjusted to the circumstances into which they were born and lived, they thrived in spite of them and it is their spirit to which I dedicate this art piece.
The sunflowers symbolize the women I come from, women who turn their faces to the sun, women who follow the light. Architects of my story, of the stories of all women, they stand tall, like sentinels.
The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others. Vincent Van Gogh
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Unable to die, (no sharp instruments lie by)
When the moon is full and I have fallen, weak, upon my knees,
Painted upon myself Grief, orange, red, black, instead,
Torn at my hair, and madly rubbed charcoal about my staring eyes,
Down my cheeks; I gather the Objects,
Sacred only to me, to beat the drum of my despair,
I draw ancient symbols on my face, my hands, my skin,
A forgotten language decipherable
Only to the guardians at some ancient gate, then
As the Gods allow, or the Moon, or Pluto himself ordain,
I take another step down,
down the stone and winding stair.
A sister priestess, Her purple cloak about her hidden keening face,
Beckons me come, Lifts up her slender hands and pours into my opened breast,
That deeply drinks, bottomless thirst, of a holy water that knows,
A holy water that reaches, flows, finds the wounded, wordless place,
Dances fire, baptizes the heavy knotted roots,
Holding up its diamond-true, still mirror .
The purpled dark reflection contains All Power,
Collapses stars into black holes,
Splits atoms, the mother's heart in two,
Like a pomegranate cracked; its marbled veins full,
Thick grief revealed, congealed and
Tracing a sluggish path through the quicksand circle of loss,
The caverns of the heart exposed, labyrinths of sorrow.
A glimpse of gold flashes, the thin thread grasped, and
Death's hand opens. The high priestess,
Embodied robe of poetry, breathes
Water-fire-earth-air verse, softly blows the healing tinder,
Flames the broken mother-heart with Spirit until it burns
The solid matter.
Kelly O'Neal Thompson
copyright February 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Linda, my sister, oldest of we five siblings, sent me a heartbreaking poem yesterday. Dickers, her husband, and my brother-in-law, father to Laurie, stepfather to Julie and David, grandfather to four children, was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. At the same time, an aneurysm about to burst in his stomach was discovered and he underwent surgery for that. He has been a good soldier through it all and he has an amazing spirit. I know that he stays strong for his family and he has taught me a great lesson about love.
It’s cancer and it’s advanced
I don’t think we heard that right
It’s cancer and it’s advanced
This can’t be right.
Why our brain is screaming
Why us, what did we do
We must be dreaming.
A voice whispers in our ear,
Remember me, I’m here
No…you aren’t here
All we feel is fear.
How could this happen?
What did we do?
Nothing, he says, but
Remember me, I’m here.
Taking one day at a time
Putting one foot in front of another
Our minds are leaden
Our feet are frozen.
A voice whispers in our ear,
Remember me, I’m here
No, you aren’t here
All we feel is fear.
What will tomorrow bring?
We don’t know he says, just love one another,
Remember, I am here.
Oh…as our hearts begin to listen to that still calm voice.
Each day passes, time moves on,
Isn’t this a beautiful day, he says.
Yes, she says…so glad we are here together
Joining our hands as we live each day to the fullest
Did you see the sunrise this morning?
It was beautiful
Did you hear the birds singing?
Causing our spirits to soar.
A voice whispers in our ear,
Remember me, I’m here
Hello, we hear your voice
And feel your presence near and are comforted.
I love you forever he says,
She says me more than you,
It feels good to be together
To share our lives each day
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring,
But, we take each day as a gift
We now hear that voice clearly whisper in our ear,
Remember me; I’m here to help you in your journey
We remember you, we remember you
We are glad you are here with us
As we make this journey together
Safe in you, safe in you.
Thank you for remembering me.
Written by: Linda Carlson
February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Arrived to whites, browns, maroons, and greens in Homer, Alaska and the crisp embrace of fresh snow, clear skies and sunshine on Friday, February 7th. We left the blue, oranges, and reds of La Paz and the soothing warmth of blazing skies via Cabo San Lucas Wednesday, February 5th.
I began to choke on the closed air of airplanes by the time we reached the Anchorage leg of our journey and a stay in the downtown Sheraton overnight. Turns out it was so cold while we were gone that the hotels water pipes froze and burst. There was huge repair and renovation going on. With the stale, moldy air and a "ventilation" fan in our room that blew constantly, I could barely breathe by the time we departed for the airport and the last leg of our journey home, so the blast of cold as we climbed off the commuter plane and onto flat ground was welcome. El Sol pulled a fast one and burned so brightly in the Alaskan sky that I had to pull out my shades and put them on. It was 26 degrees.
A sweet reunion with Clyde the Fraud dog, who kept the Alaskan home fires burning for us, followed and today, my quick jaunt with him up the road and back served to refamiliarize me with my snug Ugg boots, long underwear, and the need for wearing, well, clothing and shoes.
I'm a bare foot girl from way back, so the freedom of bare feet and shorts in La Paz, with local residents asking me, "Aren't you cold?" (January and 65 degrees in La Paz is considered cold by local standards, but by Alaskan standards it was positively go-naked weather; besides, it was more frequently around 80 degrees the entire month, which, we were told, was unseasonably warm for that time of year. Either way, we are talking tropical and nothing feels better to me than terra cotta tile beneath my bare feet.)
So, while the sun is high and bright in the sky, remaining visible our first few days back in our part of Alaska, and while daylight increases exponentially as the earth continues its rotation (we gained, roughly, 5 minutes and 31 seconds of daylight today in Homer, Alaska), the need for warm clothing, shoes, and propane, wood, or other combustibles to generate heat remains paramount. Even indoors, I have to keep socks on my feet or they turn into cold bricks. Did I mention that I like to go barefoot?
In any case, though I've had to put on shoes and long pants, it feels much warmer than the 20 degrees F reported by the weather underground. On our walk though, Clyde calls me a "wuss" and reminds me that the average low in January was 6 degrees F at Cooper Wounded Bear Kennel, where he toughed it out while, his brown eyes accuse, we were on our "spa" vacation in La Paz, Mexico. The average low in Homer in January was 17 degrees F. The average low in La Paz, Mexico for January was 56 degrees F and the average high 76 degrees F.
We are getting a warm Alaskan welcome home, but I'm going to miss my barefoot days in La Paz.
Note: The above image is an oil I was inspired to paint for our hosts, Al and Michele during out stay in La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico. (image: Tres Lirios de Cala by Kelly O'Neal Thompson, copyright January 2009 do not reproduce without express permission of the artist)
Friday, January 23, 2009
The sun's short path across our Homer, Alaska sky this time of year is in stark contrast to it's warmth and proximity here in La Paz. Yesterday we went to the Playa de Belandre. It was especially beautiful - the tides were extremely low and I walked around the southern point observing tide pools along the way, keeping my eyes peeled for shells - the ones I finally began to see, making infinitesimally small pathways in the sand, were surprisingly alive, so I did not gather any after all. Somehow, I had imagined the shells abandoned, not as little houses carried on the backs of living creatures and so I left them to themselves and their unimaginable journeys. Crabs moved so quickly that I could only trace their existence from the corners of my eyes. Clams slammed shut with a pop as I passed. Eventually, I saw a long black and orange snake, possibly an eel and wondered if it was "electric". Wayne ventured closer to it than I was willing to go and claimed it was dead, but I was not sure of its demise and became wary of the existence of others lurking somehow just beneath my feet. The air was hallowed and its embrace healing. Such a difference between this environ and the one in which we live in Alaska! Today, it was almost too hot. Uncaring, I sat purposefully in the direct path of the mid-day sun, soaking up its rays, conscious of how far away that small yellow globe will seem upon our return home, how I will miss its proximity and warmth. At the latitude in which we reside, the earth tips away and toward un-starred space this time of year. Even in summer, when the globe rotates toward the sun, we are still farther away from the sun's warmth than other latitudes, although it lights our lives with nearly endless day. I am amazed at the bright heat I feel today in La Paz. The brightness of the sunshine almost hurts and I wear sunglasses though I still squint from behind their protective lenses. The sun - giver of life - pours forth its warmth here in the south of Mexico and far away, in the north, I imagine our home in mid-day brightening only in cloudless skies, momentarily crimson, before the cold gray of the shortened days. There is something to be said for that cold distance, its shadowy purple indigo flame. Never before my life at that latitude have I been so aware of the sun and its defining role in my welfare, our minute place on this whirling globe, how it turns and turns in space, how much a part and parcel the sun's pull plays on our fortune. I rub tanning lotion into the loosening skin of my legs, then turn my face skyward. The chariot of the gods makes its way across the sky, pulling the sun in an ever-deepening and eternal drama above the known horizon; in La Paz it barely moves, as though suspended. Those who live here hardly notice. They nod against the imperceptible chill, wear long sleeves and pants... dream of summer.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I ran across Mark Doty's posting of the inaugural poem, "Praise Song for the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander and was inspired to comment:
In the poet's reading, I heard common sense, a down to earth presence in the words and voice, a simple (but not simplistic) note without pretension. I heard a call to love that echoed the essence of a particular place in history, a crossroads in which America stands, and I heard not religion, but a voice that reached past the noise of all our individual affiliations or leanings, the noise of difference and said, "We are here together."
Seeing her words on paper with its line breaks and stanzas gave me the opportunity to go even further into the experience of yesterday.
Below is a copy of the poem as it reads on msn.com:
Praise For The Day
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
For those, like us, who were impressionable children when JFK took office (Wayne was eleven, I was seven) and then when JKF, MLK, and then RFK were assassinated, with LBJ in office, this moment is more than a hopeful one for the new generation (our children); it is also a profoundly healing one for those of us in-between.
During the inaugural speech, when Obama said these words:
At the same time, to give Bush Jr. some credit, he had the unfortunate task of leading our country during a time in which "the sins of our fathers" would come to light and thank God for that. For that reason, I am grateful for the bad times – for I believe they have served and will continue to serve to bring about change we can trust. With that change comes a new beginning and a new light to shine on our country, as both example and inspiration to the world – with that change comes a spirit that is both old and new, its roots in our founding fathers and mothers, the spirit of service and of unity in the face of great need.
There is no room or excuse for the greed and corruption in which our leaders have taken part and that we the people have been complicit in by very virtue of that charter that tells us we have the power to say no. We did not say no, or if and when we did, we did not say it loud enough.
It is with our new President Barack Obama and his leadership that we may now find the courage and the hope, as people, to offer an enthusiastic yes to change, change that represents no less than the radical spirit of that charter in which our country was founded, and a resounding and firm no to anything less.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Summer 2005: There is a rainbow, the last fourth of it shining out from the depths of a billowy white cloud with grey edges sitting over some small cove across the bay. The water today is cerulean blue and the trees myriad shades of bright green, the kind of green that comes from mixing blues with yellows, and Clyde is running in what we call a yard, a little over a acre of grass edged with alders, devils club, fireweed, nettles, and raspberry bushes clinging to clay soil as though their fragile roots could hold off high tide and wind and all the forces of erosion that chip away at the bluff our house sits on and just above.
Clyde’s coat is shiny black, almost achingly gleaming, and feathered strokes of white wisps curl off his chest and toes. Clyde prances like a proud horse, if his nostrils were larger, I swear I could hear him snort like a mustang. He paws the ground and throws his head back, glancing at me to see if I’m watching. He finds his new toy and brings it to me but then changes his mind and runs the other way trying to get me to play the game his way. I watch the neighborhood pheasant make an awkward u-turn as he stupidly wanders in Clyde’s direction, but Clyde is sufficiently distracted and not much of an animal chaser anyway.
I walk with Clyde up the dirt road we call our street for half a mile or so and then we turn around and slowly walk back down, stopping every few feet just to stare at the rainbow and how it just sits there without fading over some small cove across the bay, how it shines color on some happy place blessing the entire bay with its presence and how it is not by any stretch of the imagination the first rainbow I’ve seen since moving here and I wonder if I will ever become desensitized to rainbows.
Wandering down the dusty lane flanked by green I notice a neighbors log house and how like a kingdom it seems. It is a home assuredly grown over decades of living in one place and it reigns over at the same time that it seems to serve the land it sits on, the ocean it looks out on, the open sky it surveys, the mountains and glaciers and coves over the water that beckon.
When I was a girl, I played outside for hours. I hated coming inside even to pee. In the face of this- yet another rainbow- I strain to remember myself, a girl who climbed trees, caught crawdads, played in creeks, built bridges over ditches, and took long solitary hikes out of the subdivision and into nearby farmland. A girl who built tree houses and forts, I wandered the outdoors, swam, rode bikes, skateboarded, and pitched tents in the backyard. When my parents took us to visit relatives who lived by the river and the woods, they were the first place I headed, with another child or alone. Let loose from the car on a Sunday drive in the mountains, I scrambled headlong up the nearest rock as fast as I could, my lungs screaming until I could climb not one inch further and had gotten myself into a spot I surely might never get out of and always did, inching my way back down eighty degree inclines of slick rock to taunt my younger brother for not keeping up and then turning abruptly to lead him up yet another direction and possible disaster.
These are the things I remember now staring at this perfect place and this perfect rainbow. Clyde is patient with me, sitting beside me as long as I want to stand in one place, motionless. Homer, and the bay it calls home, appears, a long lost prince come to catch me sleeping, showering me with rainbows and light that turns shadows into glitter, waking me up from my adult slumber. Three cranes fly overhead, their necks long like their legs, their bodies a brown oval. The sound they make is haunting and beautiful. It is the sound that desire might make if it were made into music. It is the sound of a mother calling a child home at the last light of day.
I tell Clyde that we will be taking long walks on the beach, to prepare to spend entire days wandering up and down the east end of the bay. I advise him that it is time for me to go outside and play again, for no reason at all. That it is time for me to stay out long after I have to pee. He can come with me and we will look for dead crabs on the shore and circle rocks and more. I will throw sticks for him and he can swim all he wants in the ocean. Clyde’s tongue hangs crookedly out of his happy mouth and he meets my gaze with his, evenly as though to say I’ll hold you to that promise. We finish our short walk of long pauses and sit on the deck together. I wrap myself in a blanket and watch the sky until it is very late. Clyde sits at my feet with his head on his paws.
The rainbow does not fade. Stubbornly, bands of red, yellow, and green hang in the midnight sky of deepening dusk. The billowy cloud drifts away revealing more of the rainbow, which now arcs over half the sky, even as I retire for the night and the sun slowly makes its summer descent. Sleep comes slowly and I think it is my imagination when I hear the cranes again, whooping faintly, but insistently in the distance.
Monday, January 12, 2009
I love the sound of the Spanish language. It has a lyric quality, comforting, soft and lilting, yet it is a passionate language also. The tempo and emphasis may change but it all comes from the same composer with its many different symphonies. I’m reminded of music lessons from my childhood. Black notes, clef treble, flats and sharps, three over four, one-quarter time, allegra, stacatto, lento; it all returns. Listening is like reading music.
There is a warm wind that blows in the afternoon. The weather is mild, hotter here in winter than our Homer summer. It cools quickly with sunset but not cool enough for a heater. We’ve needed an extra blanket once or twice, if that.
Managed to get hooked up electronically with phone and internet service today. It is, after all, a post-modern world. I am getting many opportunities to practice my Spanish. The people are friendly and, not only don't seem to mind my attempts to communicate, but go out of their way to assist me with their language. I have a long way to go with that, but am enjoying the journey.
More from the Baja Sur to come. Hasta leugo...
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Consider this: Multiple shades of blue marble the watered landscape, the barest hint of fuschia, like spilled paint, spreads outward over the sky, the alders trace a cold outline of deep maroon in the foreground. Traces of the New Year sun backlights the mountains across the bay, an ocher glow. Grewingk glacier makes a nonchalant retreat, holding the land like water cupped in a palm and spilling.
I am blessed.