Wednesday, September 22, 2021



It was just another walk to the river.

Past the middle school,

the alley,

the church.

One foot in front of the other.

Grown men playing at being swordsmen in South Park.

Bygone ways from bygone days.

People strolling along on Mass. Street.

Snatches of conversation,

nothing worth repeating.

A mother baby-talking to her baby,

baby riding high on daddy’s shoulders.

“Too much sun. Too much sun.”

The ghost of Don McLean singing American Pie

outside the store that sells beer brewing stuff

to people who want to brew beer.

I listened to the music for a while.

And when they had caught the last train for the coast,

I got up to get a drink from the water fountain nearby.

The water was warm -

but it was wet.

It was water.

The Dusty Bookshelf was crowded.

People lined up to buy books.

More books piled up than

anyone could sell in a month of Saturdays.

And then some.

I walked out.

And then finally as I crossed the Kaw River Bridge

I thought I might just as well turn back...

but inertia carried me on down to the water’s edge.

I found a drift-log resting in the shade of a sycamore tree.

A pleasant breeze.

Cicadas singing.

City sounds receding into the background.

I rested.

With an unfocused gaze,

I reflected on a river reflecting sky.

I noted what I had noted.

And time passed as it always does.

And now the past is past.

I have have written

what I have written

and I wonder:

Have I said too much?

Have I said too little?



Friday, September 3, 2021

One blackberry at a time

My friend invited me to come over to his house to share in his surplus of blackberries. Being a friend, I could hardly refuse, but it was something of a nuisance, ducking underneath the netting draped over the canes to keep the birds out, scrambling around on hands and knees, reaching awkwardly up into the canes to get to the ripe ones almost out of my reach.

Blackberries just don’t ripen all at the same time, rather they ripen one at a time in their clusters from green to red to black, or more precisely, they eventually ripen to a very deep, dark, lustrous purple. At that point the berry will very nearly drop into your hand when you reach for it. But my point is that you have to pick each blackberry one at a time.

So you look for the ripe ones. Sometimes they’ll hide behind a leaf, sometimes they are just one more finger’s-length away from your outstretched fingers. But seek and you shall find. Blackberries!

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and collect two or three ripe ones in a handful before dropping them into the bowl. Eventually there will be enough in the bowl for a cobbler or crisp. And if you’re really ambitious, there’s jam. But I rarely want to work that hard. Thankfully, my friend has a relatively small patch of blackberries.

But as picking blackberries goes, it turns out that a blackberry will end up in your mouth – one blackberry at a time. And then another. And then you begin to realize that one blackberry is sweeter, juicier than another. They’re all good, mind you, but as you’re picking them, one blackberry is sweeter and juicer than another. And, oh, just how sweet and juicy that can be. Better than you imagined. And then the picking becomes a quest.

And yes, all of those blackberries that do make it to the bowl will be as good as they can be all jumbled together in a cobbler or crisp, but I recommend eating blackberries one at a time – handed to you like a gift. Juicy. Sweet.

You’ll taste the difference. You’ll taste the wonder.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Happy Anniversary


After 35 years of marriage, this is mostly what I want: to chop vegetables at the dining room table while Dawn is putting together the pasta in the kitchen.

I pick up a Japanese eggplant from the cutting board and turn around, pretending that it’s a gun. Dawn laughs. I chop some more vegetables. She yells at my back from the other room that the music is too loud. I pretend not to hear. It’s Paul Simon on the CD player, but I’m not really paying attention to him either. I’m mostly trying not to leave slices of my finger on the cutting board.

At some point, Dawn tells me to go down to the basement for a couple of onions. Later she tells do something with the goat cheese. I have to ask her again what she meant because I wasn’t really listening. And then she tells me. Again. And then she tells me to get some parsley from the garden. About a third cup. When I come back with a small handful of parsley, she sends me back for another small handful. “Yes, chef!”

When Dawn and I cook together, I’m always the sous chef, she’s always the exec. We both like it that way.

I get to be the man opening the jar of Kalamata olives. I get to chop vegetables. I get to take the scraps out to the compost pile. She makes sure things come together when they need to come together. We both said ‘I do’ and now we’re doing it.

The words Dawn and I exchange when we’re cooking together are entirely insignificant. They are neither prose nor poetry. We simply punctuate the air with a word or two at a time for emphasis. It’s the doing that matters.

Chopping eggplant and squash, onions and peppers. And garlic, plenty of garlic. A few words back and forth just to help move things along. And yet I think it’s those few words and sentences – spoken without even our noticing – that weave our lives together. Without those few words - without the repetition of doing things together using merely incidental words - there is no marriage. So there will be thousands - maybe millions - of those incidental words spoken over the life of our marriage. But nobody’s counting. Or even really listening much of the time.

It’s like this. You pick up a word. Take a fragment of a sentence. Put vegetables in a skillet, turn up the heat, and soon you have ratatouille. Slice a loaf of ciabatta in half and toast it in the oven. Add goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives to hot pasta, and soon the two of you are eating out on the patio, telling each other how good the food tastes.

And so there we were. On a mild evening in August with the sun going down behind the neighbor’s trees, words had been strung together in slightly longer strings as we ate together on the patio, but it still wasn’t about the talking. It’s just ratatouille.

And that’s mostly what I want.



Friday, May 29, 2020

A meditation

When uncertainty and doubt threaten to destroy you,
don't hide yourself from the world

Mother Earth awaits

Immerse yourself in the ever flowing waters

Cleanse your spirit

Your own wholeness rests within you

Be still and know yourself.


Monday, May 25, 2020

On a boathouse bench

I have been looking for a word to describe the feeling of sitting on a bench in the shade of the boathouse in Burcham Park, the wide open sky, brilliant blue, clear reflections on muddy ripples on the surface of the river ever so slowly flowing by.

It was only yesterday, already the memory fading. I could then hear the distant sound of cars and trucks crossing the turnpike bridge up river. A freight train rumbled by unseen on the far side of the levee across the way. A young man and young woman walked passed me, holding hands.

As I sat on that bench, I played for a while with a loop of string I had picked up earlier from the sidewalk as I walked to the river. Cat’s Cradle.  Sometimes a pattern of diamonds. Sometimes a tangle of knots. And then on the unseen air, I looked up to see cottonwood fluff drifting by on the early summer breeze.

I had been spending just an idling time on a sunny afternoon. And then my mind gradually became more keenly aware of everything around me – the sights and sounds, the light touch of a soft breeze – and also of a growing quietness in my mind. And there I was.

And yet, after more time passing, a moment turning into minutes uncounted, I stood up and simply walked away.  I had entered and left - a place so pleasing – a time so agreeable - all of it as ordinary as the mid-afternoon sun - and yet becoming an inexplicable wonder in my mind. 

I had been content - at ease - as I sat there yesterday afternoon, but the words here seem insufficient. And I could easily return to that place in Burcham Park on another fine-weathered day and yet not find the feeling I now only am trying to remember with this quick word sketch. Or one day – it might be any day at all - I will wander somewhere else along the river, just looking just for a place to sit. And then, perhaps, that feeling I am unable to define, will come to me, drifting on by like cottonwood fluff on an early summer breeze.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Sitting on a drift log on Willow Beach

Willow trunks, cut by beavers, had toppled, pointing towards the river. The trunks had again sprouted fresh willow leaves, quivering in a light afternoon breeze. I heard the soft lapping of water against the sand, water lapping softly against the sand.

And then I thought I heard a voice. And after an immeasurable pause – once again, a voice. It might have been you, whispering in my mind. It might have been the freshening wind, fluttering restless willow leaves, pale green against the silent gray-white sky. I searched the far bank.

Then a father and young son walked by from upriver, crossing behind the place where I sat. The son chattered to his father, his walking stick too tall for him by half. I watched them playing for a while downriver by the water’s edge.

A crow cawed. Young cottonwoods grew skyward through the sand. Drifts of driftwood. Willow leaves turning. River water lapping.

I remembered all of this from another time. I had surely been here before. I heard a voice. It might have been you, whispering in my mind.

And high overhead, I saw the silhouette of a turkey vulture, soaring on the wind.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Random thoughts

Does facebook replace face to face? Did radio and TV replace front porches? Do big boxes replace mom and pops? Do apples equal oranges? What about picking cherries or crab apples? Are clever phrases better than nuance. Do my thoughts negate yours? This is not an argument. And it's not both or neither. Or a little bit of one and a little bit of another. I had the best apple crisp I have ever eaten at a friend's house, oh, maybe it was a couple of months ago. Maybe it was last year. She's a little older than I am. But man, is she funny. I wish I could tell you how. But I'm not that good with words. Not even if I were talking to you could I tell you how she is funny. To tell you truth, I don't understand it myself. Anyway, I don't think I've known her for more than a few years. We're in a book group together. I usually don't read the books. But nobody minds. Sometimes we don't even talk about the book. But that's not the point I was making. I was talking about apple crisp. And my friend. Who I don't really know very well. I don't think she's on facebook. But she would be a hoot on facebook. She says 'hoot' sometimes. She likes me. This was never about the apple crisp, but it is. I don't want to talk about Eleanor, I want to talk to her. To Eleanor. But with this damn virus thing I don't know when that's going to happen. And there's this other friend. Well, she's half my age. I met her at the coffee shop that I hang out at. She's a barista. But the coffee shop is closed for the duration. As they say. But nobody says 'duration.' Anyway, Bailie says 'fuck' more than she says 'hoot.' And she has two daughters. And her older daughter says 'fuck' more than I do. I try to keep up. But there was this time.I was showing her this math trick. Did I forget to mention that I was tutoring her in math. Maybe I should tell you her name so I don't have to use pronouns so much. It's Cassie. Short for Cassiopeia. Not really, I'm making this all up. Well not all of it. Just the names. Now why would I do that? That's rhetorical. Anyway, it got to be that Cassie and I just messed around more than we did math. But I was showing her this thing with a Mobius strip. You cut it in half... but that's not the point. Anyway, she kept on saying she knew what was going to happen and I said keep cutting. And then what happened, happened and she looked up at me and said, 'what the f...' She couldn't even get the whole 'fuck' out, she was so surprised. I will never forget the look on her face. And I can't tell you how many times she looked at me. Never the same, but always her. Cassie. And Cassie keeps changing. I couldn't count the changes if I wanted to. You should have seen the look on her face. And I don't even know her that well. Do you know you can see Cassiopeia in the night sky if you know where to look. And when. And this is just rambling pointless nonsense. Fucking words. I get so goddam tired of facebook. You shouldn't have got me started. I should have quit when I got to Seymour. Get it? That's a lame joke. Bailie would have laughed. Did I tell you I go to a coffee shop to drink iced tea? That's the truth and a lie at the same time. And don't take that as my point. I don't want to make a fucking point. I don't even want to make an ordinary point. I just want to see someone. And not just anyone, And I don't even know who I want to see more. And why am I telling you this? Am I telling you anything? Something? I guess I should finish this. I've got laundry to do. That's what my Mom would say at the end of her letters, Or something like that. It's been a long, long time. Her name was Evelyn.