"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Call Me

A road, a river, a mountain,
restless desert eddies,
and still more space to navigate;
more than can be gathered.
Beyond the question of what you had
for dinner and if your roses bloom
or stand defeated in the heat,
about what matters, we sometimes fall behind.
Yet I feel you and hear your voice
in strangers that surround me.
When the very silence howls an absence,
like the coyotes that run your foothills,
I hear you.
In this we aren't so far apart.
They say we have them here-
bold in the twilight, hungry and moving.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Turtle

I saw a turtle today with a head the size of my fist. The ice in the pond is at 90% melt. Only a thin strip remains through the heart of the center, circling up around the dock where it's a few inches thicker (where it was once at its thickest). It was fifty degrees and sunny, so I was taking a walk along the shore, looking for signs of spring, when a loud splash startled me. I swung around, and surfacing ten or so feet out from the widening circle of ripples was a head the size of my fist. First just the head and two eyes bobbed on the surface, and I froze. Then the rest of the body came into view,black and glossy. He was swimming in reptilian fashion, reminding me of a butterfly stroke, heading straight for me, and I watched in amazement. Then he dove and his tail flicked through the air, thin and curled like a possum. The length of that tail surprised me, and the whole thing was like a dream, and I wondered if it really was a turtle. It looked more like a baby Nessie, something spawned in Loch Ness and then lifted into the atmosphere and dropped from the sky by a trickster into our little farm pond in the middle of the Great Lakes basin. He dove and was gone. I waited but he didn’t resurface.

I walked around the rest of the pond, through the narrow inlets and the dead grass, past the birch trees and the small sunken fiberglass boat that someone forgot to beach, listening for another splash, but there was nothing. Life has not yet returned to the pond, the dragonflies and water striders of summer have yet to emerge, and the catfish and bass are deep in the bottom, slowly awakening to the freeing of the pond from its winter ice. The turtle rules the water in March. He has it all to himself.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Dirty Dozen and the Ides of March

It rained through the night and the wind pummeled our brick house and rattled the windows, and this morning there are standing pools of water in the front yard and the dead grass is beaten down. A section of downspout is in the road and cardboard boxes blown away from somewhere else sit in the yard like tombstones. The woods across the muddy road are black and still. My seed order sits neglected on the table under tax returns and library books. Seeds? Spring, oh spring.

Earth Day is April 22nd. I would encourage everyone to support organic farmers and buy local and in-season fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Secondly, recycle, especially plastic. Bottled water is one of the biggest scams of our day, and the single-use leaching plastic water bottles used by the industry are the bane of our landfills.

So recycle and eat organic. Following are the dirty dozen, foods you should always try to buy organic, either because of their thin skins that offer no protection against the poison sprayed on them by conventional farmers, or the hormones and antibiotics administered to encourage fast growth and prevent disease in crowded feedlots and factory chicken farms.

1. Meat and eggs
2. Milk
3. Coffee – most of the beans we buy are grown in countries that don’t regulate the use of pesticides or chemicals. Look for the USDA Organic label to insure you aren’t buying beans grown with potentially harmful chemicals. Or go a step further and look for the Fair Trade label which insures that your purchase supports farmers who are paid fairly and treated well. And look for the shade-grown varieties. Then you know your coffee is being grown under the canopy of the rainforest, leaving these ancient trees intact.
4. Peaches (delicate skins)
5. Apples
6. Sweet Bell Peppers – they are heavily sprayed and have thin skins that don’t offer much of a barrier.
7. Celery- no protective skin, which makes it impossible to wash off the chemicals used on conventional crops.
8. Strawberries – if you buy strawberries out of season, they’re most likely imported from countries that use less stringent regulations for pesticide use.
9. Leafy Greens – frequent contamination with what are considered the most potent pesticides used on food.
10. Grapes – imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown
domestically, and grapes have very thin skins.
11. Potatoes – America’s popular spud ranks high for pesticide residue. It also gets the double whammy of fungicides added to the soil by conventional farmers.
12. Tomatoes – the tomato’s easily punctured skin is no match for chemicals that will eventually permeate it.

Pesticide, Herbicide, Fungicide . . . Suicide.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why am I Reading Three Books at Once?

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.
- Walter Bagehot

Now in all fairness I must say I don’t know who Walter Bagehot is, and my first inclination at reading this quote was to say—What? Have you not been to your local library lately? Who are you and how dare you talk so dismissively about the throes of writing anything! What do you, Walter Bagehot, know?

Then I looked at the current stack of library books competing with my uncompleted income tax returns for attention and wondered . . . why am I reading three books at once?

I started the first novel (highly acclaimed by review) with high expectations but couldn’t get through the laborious, over-written prologue. So I set it aside and started novel # 2 but soon found myself flipping through to the end of chapter one. Now this is death to a writer. To have a reader thumbing through your first chapter? Dear Lord! This is the dreaded sharpie-taken-to-your-manuscript in any respectable writer’s circle! So, how did novel #2 get past a writer’s group and an agent and an editor to become published? With lowered expectations I started novel #3 with its cleaver title and intriguing book jacket copy written to lure me in. I skimmed through the first five pages that every writer knows is paramount to success, waiting to be hooked. But sometimes it takes ten or twenty or even fifty pages to be hooked and I'm a patient reader, so I plodded ahead, only to be introduced to character after character I feared I would care nothing about. In fact, I knew every detail of their predictable lives before each was revealed and cared not a whit for any of it.

And so they sit, on top of my yet-to-be-filed income tax returns as I browse through my own bookshelves for old dog-eared paperbacks and so-called classics which might be nothing more than books written by people who knew things.

So, Walter Bagehot, whoever you are, I offer my apologies.