Monthly Archives: November 2011

Time for Thanksgiving

Standard

Thanksgiving Day is a unique part of our heritage. I once tried to explain the holiday to a Japanese friend who looked puzzled. “But aren’t you thankful every day?” she asked. “For your life, for your family, for each season …”

She’s right, of course. Beside the all-important gifts of family and friendships that enrich us in so many ways, there are wonders throughout the year.

I’m thankful in springtime when grim old winter looses its hold, when birds build their nests and cautious green shoots poke their heads out of their winter beds.  In spring, inspiration is rampant, and I think… yes! This year I will write the story that has been bothering me for months. I will revise the novel I started two years ago. And there’s that mountain of fabric I bought and stored—somewhere. In spring I’m glad for energy and ambition which swell together with the fat buds on the trees.

Along with spring warmth

hope begins to stir and grow

like budding flowers.

Summer is no slouch, either. When spring green morphs into jade and emerald, and the sun is set on high, I tend to leave the story undone and toss aside the unfinished novel. I forget about finding that misplaced fabric and go outside to marvel at hummingbirds feeding  from the honey-cups of flowers. Dahlias, hollyhocks, roses all bloom with colors that dazzle the senses—and then comes the Fourth of July with its fireworks. How could I not feel grateful? And, look, here is the ocean splashing waves onto the beach, and the sea-gulls calling, and nests of sea turtle eggs waiting to be born. If spring beings inspiration, summer’s hands are teeming with life.

Headache slides away

With the gentle splash of waves

Cooling these hot feet.

And here comes autumn. With arms full of cooler nights, it cranks up the  chorus of insects and peepers and spreads magic amongst the leaves. Autumn calls up a harvest moon, not pale or silver but big and full, a great, golden circle of honey. When I draw in a deep breath, I swear moonlight tastes sweet.

So close, Golden Moon…

You seem to skim top of trees

On tonight’s journey.

Thanksgiving happens in autumn, which makes the season richer still, but not long afterward comes Old Man Winter with frosty breath that teases the poor, naked trees. Ice and snow and freezing rain are winter’s gifts, but I’m grateful for a warm house, food that warms the body, and family to love. Thinking of those who have none of these things and of the birds fluffing up their feathers against the cold, I gather cans of food for the food pantry and fill the bird feeders. Then, standing on the doorstep, I watch the pale sun painting the sky with crimson glory,  and I sit down once more at the computer to dream and write. In this season when the cold earth rests, inspiration can flow again, and once more I hope to write that story, finish the novel… and find that fabric!

Walking in the snow…

Feet are tingling with the cold

But the heart feels warm.

   Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Details and Depths

Standard

There is a leaf- going on in the garden. The colors have peaked, and the red and the gold of last week has given way to bronze.

On this autumn day

Many bronze leaves spiral down

In bright waterfall.

Hmm. This haiku is all right as far as it goes, but it falls short. Something is nudging at the back of my mind, and I know I’m missing something. So to deepen awareness and wake up my writer’s senses, I’m going to try a timed exercise.

Step One is easy: write a simple description.

Bronze and brown leaves are falling. A few are yellow and red.

            Nothing could be simpler. Now, I go along to Step Two.

Step Two: Add details. Include the five senses and feelings. I give myself two minutes to write the following:

Wind shakes the trees. Bronze, brown and some yellow and a few red leaves are falling. There are a lot of them. They are spiraling down.  Leaves feel brittle. They rustle as they fall. Not sure what they taste like. Waterfall of color. Bits of gold look like coins. Red for sunset or even blood. Feel nostalgic for spring. A little sad that winter is coming.  

            Time’s up! There are a lot of details here, but they’re all jumbled up. I look through them and try to sort them out.  I’ll need to do that because Step Three is coming.

            In Step Three, I am going to smooth out all the messy details and write out a paragraph. I’ll give myself two minutes again.

A waterfall of leaves are falling. They are bronze and brown with a touch of gold that makes some leaves look like golden coins. (The red leaves remind me of—sunset? Rubies? Blood?) The brittle leaves rustle as they fall. I remember how they looked in  spring, and I feel a nostalgia for those hopeful days.

            Not too bad, but we still have a few more steps.This time, I am going to add lots of imagery.

Step Four: three minutes for this.

Fretfully, the wind shakes a branch, and down comes a waterfall of bronze, brown, and gold. Translucent in the sunlight, these golden leaves are weightless coins that carry with them all the wealth of summer. In the midst of the fall are a few leaves  that are so crimson that they might well be the heart’s blood of the tree itself. Do soundless voices recount wonders that these leaves have seen, their youthful hopes in spring? I can almost hear brittle whispers… or is this nostalgia my own?

            Hmm. I’m not sure I like this version. Simile and metaphor are fine in their place, but I want something simpler, more elemental. There are some parts I like, though, and I will take them with me into Step Five.

Step Five looks simple because it really is. Here I extract what really jumps out from Step Four. These important things are: the dominant color of leaves as they fall, and my own feeling of nostalgia which I project onto the leaves. The dimension of feeling is what I was missing in my original haiku!

Step Five: Expressing only the most important observations. Two minutes, tops (I can’t get hung up on this).

Bronze, gold waterfall…

Do leaves carry memories

Of hopeful spring days?

This haiku has more interest and depths than does the original, and the exercise has made me see details of the leaf-fall more clearly. I forced myself to see beyond what only my eye could see, allowed myself to go overboard with imagery, and then extrapolated what was really most important.

I’m satisfied—and I thank you for sharing the exercise with me!

 

 

 

 

On Veteran’s Day…

Standard

The maple tree has lost its shining leaves. That today’s rain and wind have swept away all traces of red and gold seems somehow appropriate, for tomorrow is Veteran’s day.

War and strife seem to be a constant to the human condition throughout recorded history. The last century bloodied the page with two horrific world wars. In my own lifetime there have been World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraq… and the conflict in Afghanistan is still ongoing. Through it all fighting men and women have marched or flown or sailed out to meet the challenge and the danger, have knowingly put their lives in harm’s way for home and country.

Some will march in Veteran’s day parades, their medals and ribbons testifying to courage and sacrifice beyond our understanding. These veterans may remember the beach at Normandy or battles in the Pacific; they might recall the icy winds of Korea or the heat of desert and jungle. They will have memories of hardships faced and friendships forged. But foremost in their memories, I think, will be the lost comrades, so many, so very many, who could not come home.

There are heroes on the home front, too—those who wait for husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who are stationed far away. They wait with hope that their loved ones are safe and will return, and on Veteran’s day we are reminded that as a nation we all share that hope.

Tomorrow we will honor all who serve and those who have served. We will honor the men and women who are far away in distant lands; we will thank those who have come home, their duty done. And we will  remember those who can never again march in a parade; we will honor them with pride and with tears and pledge to always remember their sacrifice.

Someday, soon, let there be peace throughout the world!

Buffeted by wind

Tree has lost its shining leaves…

But we remember.

 

 

 

Story for an autumn day

Standard

The fawn was crippled. Either in birth or through accident, its foreleg was bent backward so that it could only shamble after its mother and its healthy siblings.

Our friend tells this story on a day bright with autumn gold. Under a blue sky trees flaunt their orange, yellow and dark crimson leaves acquired after weathering many a cold night. To stand beneath one of these trees makes one glad to be alive.

Standing under tree

With leaves of fiery gold…

Unimagined wealth!

Today the sun still holds its warmth, and a solitary monarch butterfly floats along a cooling breeze. It is the kind of day in which one is glad to be alive, when winter cold and darkness seems too far away to taint the mind.

What happened to the fawn? I ask.

The question is laced with apprehension. I know the things of which this world is capable. Not a day goes by without some report of violence and cruelty—not just against people in war-torn lands but in our own country. Nor is man content to vent this ugliness toward his own kind—too many news stories document the horrors that are inflicted on animals. There is the flashy football star who participated in dog-fights. There are the puppy mills, the starved horses and pets abandoned because they shed too much or did not match the furniture.

So, yes, I fear for this crippled fawn.

“Well,” says our friend, “it survived through the spring and summer because its mother and aunts and brothers and sisters watched over it. We put out a little food for the deer in the woods, so they would all come to feed, and you could see how the others made sure the fawn had enough to eat.”

I know that there are many among us who take up the cause of helpless creatures. When I was growing up, my mother was a champion of all mistreated dogs, cats, and anything else that walked, crawled, flew, or slithered on this earth. Many times she went up against men twice her size in defense of some poor animal. It has to be genetic— as a child I used to bring home every stray I came across.

But the natural world is not given to compassion, and the story of the crippled deer has not ended, yet. I’m not really sure that I want to hear the end. We all know about natural selection and the survival of the fittest, and I’m aware that a small, lame fawn has little chance in a world already teeming with deer.

Still, I listen as our friend describes watching one cool morning as the deer came to feed. Then, out of the brush, she says, stepped a huge stag. Haughtily it chased off his harem and all his offspring. Chased them all from the food that was his right. Chased every one away— except the crippled fawn.

“So they ate together, the big stag and the little, lame creature,” concludes our friend. “It was really beautiful.”

I want to applaud not only because the story has a happy ending but because it proves that the natural world is still full of that ineffable magic called kindness. Here are two animals which have no knowledge of philosophy or ethics or free will, and they are still teaching a lesson of compassion and generosity.

And on this golden autumn day I have the hope that perhaps some day all humans will learn that lesson, too.

Those great, gentle eyes

Are turned toward me, asking

Questions, without words.