Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

She's coming soon.

It's raining here in Emmitsburg... more to come, and harder, and wind.

Not so bad a forecast, though, as Cape May...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bear Gulch Road, Woodside California

Today in this humid, rainy August weather in the valley here in rural Maryland, I came across an entry from my journal from August 31, 2001. Just before that, I had been staying at our Provincial House in Los Altos Hills, California. I went out for a ride to see the Djerassie ( sp?) Artists' place not far from there, on Bear Gulch Road, in Woodside.

I never reached my destination; I became too afraid to drive any further on Bear Gulch Road. These photos, from Google images, don't begin to give a true image of it:

Bear Gulch Road - the size - narrow as a twin bed,
bolstered on the right by the mountain's shoulder,
on the left by a chasm broken by huge old redwoods.
I hugged my car to the right side...
what if some reckless and impatient California driver
came up behind me?
I saw myself rolling down into eternity,
into the embracing , unbending arms of redwood.

It's strange to me that I have not been afraid when I have flown in a helicopter; have really enjoyed the view...
But put me out in the open , anywhere near a precipice, and I fling myself to the ground and hug the ground,
so afraid I am that somehow I will fall.  Even in a car, that feeling persists.  Way back in 1973, my friend Mary Lou "Scotch" Kincaid and I took a camping trip across the United States. We began in West Chester and went northwest, all the way to Seattle, Vancouver Island, the Canadian Rockies, and back across Canada and into the US at Niagara Falls.  When we traversed Glacier National Park on Going to the Sun Highway, I had a terrific experience of fear of heights.  Here are some photos from Google images that give some indication - no guardrails on most of this road, which snakes along the edge of high mountains:

This road was much more frightening than Bear Gulch Road, when I see these photos and remember. In any case, I've also driven on California Route 1, from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way north to Mendocino, and remember that as another nightmare ride. As much as I love California, I don't think I could live there with those roads.  Within my adventurous inclinations there lurks a true fraidy-cat.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Recent Publications

My poem “The Least Terns” is up on the Miriam’s Well blog.

And I just received word from Lalitamba that two of my poems, which they accepted in 2008, appear in their latest print publication.  Better late than never!

Here they are:

The Angel and the Gargoyle
I'm into God; I perch on stone pillars.
Spread golden light; spew rain water.
I wear a halo; I wear pigeon dung.
Deliver messages; spring and crouch.
Golden light like honey; dirt encrusts my cow face.
I accompany travelers; I guard the gates.
Kneel over graves; hunch over parapets.
Deliver death; terrify children.
Wings like hope; browns like shelving.
I'm always eighteen; no one asks.
My eyes lift to heaven; elbows on knees,
palms raised in praise ; chin gripped in talons.
Both of us brace, grace,
corners of garden,
walls of cathedral.
Angry Enough to Die
God found Jonah and asked him, "Have you reason to be angry?"
      "I have reason to be angry," Jonah answered God,
       "Angry enough to die."
My shady gourd plant is gone,
my cucumber, my castor,
under which I sheltered,
within which I heed.
Now I grope for the sky, that false mirror,
hot burning my skin,
skin cancer blossoming like a dandelion.
I have reason to be angry.
I have still not tasted
the flavor of my tears.
Still I mirror
Magritte's painting,
where the sand yellow leaf blossoms a watchful hawk,
though the leaf borer makes lace of his breast
so the grey sea gapes though it.
Angry enough to die.
I'll eat and drink till my heart chars.
Till that sunset burns clear through.
He is not speaking.
I lower my concrete mask
and listen.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Magician Stories

I am presently reading ( or, rather, listening to it on my iPod) Lev Grossman's novel  The Magicians. It's not the most interesting novel of its kind; the ideas are, but the prose is somewhat affected - that prissy irony which sometimes I sense in the attitude of the author. However, the plot has held me. I want to see what happens to Quentin and his peers. ( Later: after finishing the book, I just plain did not like it)

What is it about me, or about these books?  I read them voraciously.  I am drawn to them.

I am NOT drawn to the Twilight series, or to many other “magic” related books.  Just these.

It seems that one common thread is the theme of slipping into another world.  Passing through onto Platform 9 3/4… or passing from a weedy garden in Brooklyn into Breakbills… or through the back of a wardrobe into Narnia… or through the gates of an old graveyard …or using a special knife to create a small tear in the air… or the appearance of a very old book with a woodcut of a dragon…  something about these actions or images pulls me in.

Part of it is the quality of the writing. Part of it is my poet’s imagination. Part of it is being a dominant Intuitive.  But there’s a part I don’t understand at all. 

Here ‘s a poem I wrote when trying to express this attraction:


Oh Harry Potter,
how have you bewitched me
with your orphan story,
your unobtrusive self?

Your movie melody echoes in my dreams,
plays lightly right below my consciousness,                    
a lilting down up down
with xylophone
evoking magic.

Why do I love the halls of Hogwarts?
Shadowy and drafty,
watched over by the moving portraits,
deceived by the moving staircases?

Why do I love the moon on the lake,
the roots filling the floor
of the forbidden forest,
your incantations bringing light?

Give me some time with your loving owl!
Place her gently on my knee,
where I can stroke her wide white feathers
and gaze into her golden eyes.

Give  me time to dip my face
into the mercury syrup
of the Penseive,
to see my mother six years old,
whole, playing, undisturbed.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions ... they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning.”              
    —Rainer Maria Rilke

The other night, I had the pleasure of reading my poetry at the Ragged Edge Coffee House in Gettysburg. The little upstairs room was full of other poets; I followed an open reading period in which most of them shared a poem or two of their own, or a favorite from someone else. It was very  enjoyable. It’s heartening to find that there are colonies of poets in Gettysburg, Hanover, York, as well as in Frederick, Columbia, and Annapolis… not to mention Baltimore and Washington. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Art of Losing

Here is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop:

One Art  
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
After: Holly trees uprooted,  plants removed - August 2011

"One Art" is one of my favorite poems; it’s by Elizabeth Bishop, who is one of my  favorite poets.

I am not a good loser.  When I lose an object, I spend hours searching for it, and more hours searching for it in my mind.  Many times, my mind gives me a mental picture of the lost item in its location, but many times, it doesn’t.  It is very difficult for me to let go of the search for the lost item.
About two weeks ago I lost the credit card sized ID card needed to gain access to many places in the large house where I live. I call this object my “flasher.”  My peers know this for another meaning and get a big laugh out of it when I say I need to get a new flasher.  Today I succumbed and went to the Security guy to get a new one.  But I have been searching for the old one for two weeks, expending untold energy on the search.

Losing loved places, as Bishop says, is much harder. I still live in this place which is no longer the “PH” ( Provincial House) and is now to be called “Holy Family House.” How long it will take me to remember it by that name, I don’t know.  Losing the names of places is hard, too.

I begrudge every tree that is lost to me, that is cut down by the grounds people both here and on the campus at the Mount. Today I mourn the loss of some of our old gardens on this property;the new grounds guy tells me they were old, worn out plantings, and the trees were diseased and had to go.  I myself feel like an old, worn out planting sometimes, too. 

I know that my vocation is tied up with the qualities of availability and mobility, and in many ways I am highly mobile but not so available as I once was. I think about Elizabeth Seton, one of my favorite models, and how many places she lost, and worse, PEOPLE she lost, during her short life. Those losses cost her dearly, but made her focus on the one Person she would not lose.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meet Your Grace

Here is a poem I wrote for the occasion of the uniting of our four provinces into the new Province of Saint Louise:

Meet Your Grace

God invites you:
Come to Me heedfully,
Listen, that you may have life!

Meet your Grace:
You are servants instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven.
You bring from your storeroom
both the old and the new.

Meet your Grace:
God renews with you
the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to Vincent and Louise.

Meet your Grace:
the hand of the Lord feeds you –
God answers all your needs.
Nothing will separate you
from that Love.

Meet your Grace:
She comes to you
with tickets to new lands.
She comes to you
with wine and milk.
She comes to you
with cloud by day,
Fire by night.

Some statistics about the new province:

The Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise by the Numbers:
  • Province of St. Louis includes 562 Daughters of Charity
  • Province of St. Louise Sisters serve in 22 US States, Washington D.C., and Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Daughters of Charity minister in 190 different works in the above locations
  • Province of St. Louise Sisters serve in foreign missions on every continent except Antarctica
  • Worldwide, there are more than 19,000 Daughters of Charity 

It was quite a gathering in Baltimore this past weekend.  About 400 of us were in attendance.  High volume of talking, to say the least!  My introverted self had to retreat to my room to recharge my batteries.

More on this event later.