Saturday, October 31, 2015

#23: What spirits roam this Hollow-e'en?

What spirits roam this Hollow-e'en? 
From Celtic times, we put out soul cakes
for the poor, and treats 
to placate spirits in the dark.
Watch out for wise witch-owls and
a man named Jack. 
His lantern's flickering light might
entice you away 
from that narrow path between houses. 
If you follow him, 
you'll be doomed to wander o'er the earth, 
forbidden entrance to heaven or hell,
a different kind of death
than that foretold by owls' shrieks:
they do not know who will die,
only once the sun rises,
a soul will be lost.

"Too scary. Let's go to the next house!"
Photo by Paul L. Dineen at Flickr

Today marks the end of October and the last 'official' poem I'll post for OctPoWriMo, with special thanks to coordinator Morgan Dragonwillow for her inspiring posts. I do still need just 8 more poems to complete a poem a day, but NaNoWriMo begins at midnight today.

NaNoWriMo is that most likely crazy commitment that some writers undertake to write some 1,666 words a day, finishing the month with a 50,000 word novel. Try it, if you haven't.

Today, I wanted to write something about Halloween, so started with a look at Random Facts' post: 40 Fun Facts About Halloween. For some reason, I was drawn to the darker facts and not the amusing factoid that most trick-and-treaters pefer chocolate, that Halloween is the second biggest grossing sales (after Christmas), and that black and orange are the colors most associated with Halloween, marking that transition between the harvest season and winter.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

#22: Ghoulish Senses

At the brink of Halloween,
fear skitters along the aisles
of shoppers, planning parties,
or seeking tricks
or treats, that chocolate cake
laced with spiders,
that bright orange pumpkin 
smelling of the grave,
and gummy worms
red and black that stick 
in the throat,
a sugary death
redeemed by melting masks
and an unrelenting howl.

Just today, I will wait for callers, 
begrimed with green
and a pointy, witch hat, 
reaching out with gnarled fingers
and a loud cackle to terrify
those who dare to knock
at my darkened door.

Bloody Halloween Cake
Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo is nearly the last prompt, though I am a little behind in writing a poem a day for October. We're asked to write a poem involving all five senses. 

But I've been inspired as well by Halloween. And though I write historical fiction, I saw a cake that has me thinking of a very dark tale, for I'm  tempted and wondering -- who would bake a cake like this?

Check out what others have written at OctPoWriMo. And have a delightful Halloween. Knock at a stranger's house, if you dare!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

#21: Morning thoughts on fall . . .

Oregon's Red Hills by Sandra Brown Jensen
Suddenly the hills are red with color,
even in soft rain, low lying clouds,
we can see change 
from Indian summer to those last, 
precious days before winter.

Let's walk then, you and I,
out early, before the winter birds wake,
those last clusters of crows scavenging
our neighbors' yards before the snow comes, 
while above, Canada geese 
sing their way south.

Manito Park by Jeffrey Stemshorn

I have no time this morning for poetry, and yet these two photographs by friends inspired me -- as did the sound of Canada geese flying south on this cold, foggy, rainy morning. Busy day ahead, but take time to appreciate:

Sandy's wonderful video celebrating friends and fall.

What others have written today for OctPoWriMo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

OctPoWriMo: About that video challenge

Today, Morgan Dragonwillow challenged the writers participating in OctPoWriMo to post a video of a poem they had written this month. 

Here's my favorite:  "If I Had a Wish. . . " (also posted at YouTube)

If you'd rather read this poem, it's posted below.

Now let's hop over to OctPoWriMo to see if any other writers courageously posted their work!

Technical note: My computer doesn't have that camera option, so I used my well-travelled Olympus (eyepiece missing, duct tape holding parts together) to make this little video.

#20: Sometimes morning . . .

Sometimes morning
comes too early,
or late,
or not at all.
Darkness moves in:
the shadows of intention rise up,
shaping what could be
into remorse.

The challenge remains
to simply breathe,
one breath at a time,
to notice first the flowering violets,
vibrant with purple and pale pink
in my winter office,
to set aside the clutter for later.
Instead, a meditation on now,
what is possible.
Outside the last fall leaves
shimmer golden in the sun.
Morning truly begins.

Sometimes I think that writers constantly wrestle with ways to make time for actual writing. Poetry, for me, involves that focusing inward, almost a meditation that seems impossible to schedule. Yet without discipline or a timeline of some kind, how do we find those words that reach to the essence of what we are trying to communicate? Perhaps today is the hope. If not today, perhaps tomorrow. As the sages have told us, “It is not required of you to finish, but you must start.”

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo is a challenge, inspired by a quote from Lila Gifty Akita, "“I have accepted the challenge of life, to be all that I can possibly be.” Morgan Dragonwillow has added another level for we shy, introverted writers to embrace: To post a video or audio of our favorite poem. 

Check out what others have written HERE.

Maybe tune in later today to see IF I have met Morgan's challenge. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

#19: Sunday afternoon at Manito Park

Just this afternoon, walk with me
along this tree-graced block,
down to the Japanese gardens,
where formal plantings embrace
the turn of summer to fall.

We'll cross the bridge and turn,
surprised by colors everywhere,
the reds, greens, and yellow
shadow the water
where koi slumber.

Perhaps we'll sit for a moment 
to ponder the paths not taken.

We'll watch new mothers
with toddlers cross that bridge again,
posing against the brilliant red maple,

as if they could hold 
this moment still, 
like the last red leaves
that invite this light 
against the darkness.

Today's picture poem was inspired by a walk in Spokane's Manito Park, where the trees so quickly have transformed from summer green, to golden fall, to those precious days of color, just before the first frost, that first recognition that true winter is on its way.

I'm not writing a poem a day any more, having gratefully become immersed in writing. But please do visit OctPoWriMo to celebrate and enjoy what others have read.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

#18: Sometimes an Umbrella . . .

"Gulls by the Sea" by Morgan Dragonwillow

Sometimes an umbrella cannot hold back the rain,
or the gulls fly away before I catch their image.
What remains? A shadow, a memory, the umbrella
collapses, the sky above me empty of birds, 
yet those soul-healing blue waves 
surge in, warm over my toes, 
as I make my own flight,
umbrella forgotten, 
sketch book wet on the sand,
connections to sea and sky and you
now deep in the sea,
never forgotten.

Today's poetry prompt from Morgan Dragonwillow's OctPoWriMo came as a welcome surprise. For as Morgan reveals her struggles with balancing other commitments with her writing, I find myself in that same place. The prompt? Overwhelmed. 

Perhaps I will not be able to write a poem a day, but I have found inspiration to face down my own writer's block with this post from Joe Bunting, The Write Practice, called "How To Defeat Writer's Block and Write With Courage," also posted this week.

The lessons distilled for me are simply:
1. Put my writing first.
2. Accept my writing will be imperfect.
3. Save editing for later.
4. Persevere.

My favorite quote from Joe Bunting: “Instead of trying to be perfect, strive for the opposite of perfection: vulnerability, the courage to tell your story with your whole heart.”

I'm finally back to work on Rivers of Stone, feeling grateful for this online community of writers.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

#17: If I Had a Wish . . .

I could be a bear, 
outside all tooth and claw,
furious brown; inside 
a down comforter, hand sewn,
fluffy and warm, 
tucked in on myself
for the long winter to come.

Elephants are equally appealing,
sturdy, calm, that golden eye reflective,
a round of grasses, water, 
and rolling in warm mud baths
to cool the summer sun, 
perhaps leaning 
into the one you love; 
those tusks tell of something different,
night rages, screaming battles,
no, not an elephant.

How about a violin, strings awaiting 
for the bow, the music fills the air and ear,
notes streaming, harmonious,
each leading to the next, and then
set aside, to reside in memory.
Ah, now I've found my home:
words on a page,
words on your lips,

Neatorama, Let Me Play You The Song of My People
Sandy Brown Jensen introduced me to this wonderful picture of a Russian bear playing a harp. It seemed just right for today's prompt from OctPoWriMo to write a poem about something unexpected. Why not visit to see what others have scribbled on this rainy Sunday?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

#16: Windows . . .

Why do I need to change?
Inevitably, inexorably,
Never is not an option.
Do not imagine this transformation is complete!
Oh, awe-ful moment!
Windows into the future,
Static no more.

An acrostic confirms I have joined the millions . . . and upgraded to Windows 10. So far, not too difficult. But now, when I’m writing in Word, these messages pop up on my screen, breaking my concentration, which as I am tired from today’s quilt show (over 500 quilts!!!!), is about as steady as a gnat. 

So here is my second, catch up haiku, today’s prompt from OctPoWriMo, on spending the day with my dear sister at the 37th Annual Quilt Show here in Spokane. The Haiku follows traditional syllables for each line 5/7/5, but doesn’t quite catch the sweetness of spending this day, the first in two years, with her.

A Haiku for my Sister

Five hundred quilts and
you, lovely, dazzling, sore feet.
Next time, stay longer!

"I Feel Like a Witch . . . "
My favorite quilt at the show, made by Marty Lou Weidman and quilted by Pam Clarke, is "I Feel Like a Witch If I Have No Time to Stitch." Mary Lou is a nationally recognized quilter; she has her own website and designs whimsical quilts that invite you to dance with fabric, smile, and create!

And here is my quilt, 12 blocks of pueblo pots, ready now to use after the show.

Friday, October 16, 2015

#15: Sea Elegy for a Mermaid

The ship tips into waters deep, and I float down, near sleep
The ship tips into waters deep, and I float down, near sleep
The sea streams, bubbles past; deepest green to deepest black
The sea streams, bubbles past; deepest green to deepest black
The green ship bubbles near and tips down, streams into black
Deepest waters, deepest sleep, I float past the deep sea

Down to the depth where pale pink coral gardens abound
Down to the depth where pale pink coral gardens abound
Sea grasses reach to blue waters beyond my vision, rimmed with tears
Sea grasses reach to blue waters beyond my vision, rimmed with tears
To coral gardens, rimmed with tears, pale pink sea grasses abound
Where my vision reaches beyond the depth down, to waters blue

In that lost kingdom of stories untold, you wait for me
In that lost kingdom of stories untold, you wait for me
Where the yellow fishes swim; my heart’s desire found at last
Where the yellow fishes swim; my heart’s desire found at last
Where the yellow fishes wait for stories, my untold desire lost and found,
At last, you swim in my heart’s kingdom for me

The ship tips into waters deep, and I float down, near sleep,
The sea streams, bubbles past; deepest green to deepest black
Down to the depth where pale pink coral gardens abound,
Sea grasses reach to blue waters beyond my vision, rimmed with tears
In that lost kingdom of stories untold, you wait for me
Where the yellow fishes swim; my heart’s desire found at last

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo sets a poetry challenge of a fixed form -- the Paradelle. Trust me, this one is so complicated, with doubled lines AABB setting the words for CC in each stanza. That last stanza is supposed to be made up entirely of every word in the preceding stanzas -- but in an entirely new form. Sorry. I ran out of time.

When I went snorkeling the first time, the instructor in an amazing adventure off the coast of Honduras, began our lessons in waist deep water. We were then taken to waters about 30 feet deep. And then our little boat took us to that place where the bottom of the sea slanted down to an abyss. Not everyone wanted to snorkle along that ridge, looking down into the black, past the fantastic coral reefs and shifting schools of fishes.

The drawing? Into the deep -- by me.

Read what others have written for today's challenge at OctPoWriMo HERE and more about the Paradelle at Shadow Poetry HERE.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#14: The Mermaid Candle

If I could simply sit
by your side for these final hours,
I would offer my hand.
Each decade teaches its own lessons:
but how do we let go of those we love,
father, mother, lover, child?

Take me down in memory
to where the wild iris grow,
to the first time I knew you,
when all was possible.
And then we went adventuring,
your arms, your heart, my solace.

For now, I'll burn the mermaid candle,
and count the hours we share,
knowing for as long as I breathe,
I will carry you with me.

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo is simply to imagine what a day would be like IF we could do anything, how would we conquer the world. Too many friends just now are faced with serious illness, and one friend holds vigil beside her dying father.

So I was reminded of that time in southern Mexico, when we were young. In the little house we rented in San Cristobal de las Casas, we found this large tree of life. A crowned mermaid surrounded by fishes stares implacably into the future, simply accepting what is. 

Originally, such trees of life, made of simple coiled pottery, were to teach stories of the Bible during the colonial era. But like many forms of art, the maker transforms the message. Perhaps one day I'll know why stories and images of mermaids are a comfort to me. For now, a friend gave me a mermaid candle, and it is that which I will light.

And in other news: Hooray! Years of Stone is being featured by Underground Book Reviews on its Pitch Perfect Picks Showcase.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#13: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow . . .

"Last Sunday's Dawn Light" by Sandy Jensen
For every decade we've sought
the wilderness, 
around lakes, remote and near,
through forests, pine and cedar,
and made our nests in different towns,
learning new languages as we 
walked up and down cobble-stoned streets
in hilly towns located 
at the edge of the compass.
For every doubt I've had
about keeping up with you, 
only this remains:
We shared yesterday;
you are with me today.
Only a fool would grab for tomorrow,
but I hold hope
close to my heart.  

The most mystical walk we've had was around the base of that mountain in northeast Montana, famous for many reasons, but popularized by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We followed the trail around Devil's Tower, called Bear Lodge by the Lakota, and long a national monument. 

At one point, the trail branched, and we decided to explore. A crow or raven flew against us on the path. It happened so quickly, we weren't sure which. But we persevered to discover the trail ended around a perfect tree; from its branches hung many prayer bundles. We reverently circled the tree and left quietly. Just ahead of us on the trail back, a cloud of butterflies escorted us to the main trail.

The picture above, taken by Sandra Brown Jensen, a former teaching colleague and digital storyteller, is one of her many inspirational photos and videos.

See what other OCTPOWRIMO writers have posted today!

Devils Tower (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#12: A Pair of Earrings . . .

San Miguel de Allende at Sunset (Adam Ive at

I remember the first time
I wore earrings: small pearls 
given by a grandmother
I never knew.
I used to change my earrings 
to match the moment.
Today, I wear earrings that are
forgettable, that I can sleep in
without thinking,
But I keep my jewelry 
in an old Japanese box of carved mahogany
filled with mementos,
these keepsakes of travels here and there,
friendships, and gifts from my love: 
tiny frogs or silver medallions, 
dangling with turquoise and amythyst,
found in a small jeweler's shop
on a sidestreet in San Miguel de Allende.
Just for today, I shall wear these vintage
earrings from Mexico. They remind me
of a time long ago, 
when we sat out on the roof,
before us, the lights of a small town, 
overhead the stars, 
and you beside me.

Vintage earrings,
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
about 1980
Missed writing a poem yesterday so here is today's poem, inspired by Antiques Roadshow. A young woman brought her 'junk jewelry' she'd found to discover the earrings were French fillagree with cameos, dated 1775 and worth several thousands of dollars. I know women (and men) have worn jewelry for millenia. I do treasure mine, even if these possessions are so temporary, but they carry memories. 

Find out what those other writers for Octpowrimo are up to HERE.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

#11: Halloween Fancy . . .

Jack O'Lanterns
Mary Beth Griffo Rigby (Flickr)

At the end of October,
little boys dress up as ghosts
or caped marauders,
and little girls as bumblebees 
or princesses with fairy wings 
and magic wands,
sweet innocence
on the search for plunder.
Ring around the rosey . . .
The Great Pumpkin rises
under a full harvest moon,
as door to door we skip,
down the darkened streets
from house to house.
Pockets full of posies . . .
Barren trees line the sidewalk
by the witch’s house,
her cornucopia hangs above us
on the sloping porch,
full of sweet meats.
She beckons us in:
Ashes, ashes . . .
We all fall down.

Don’t we all have memories of Halloween, that frisson of fear that underlay our quest for candy, the darkened houses just a little strange on the one night no one counted how many chocolates we ate? 

My sweet granddaughters are getting ready with costumes and yet this night carries darkness all by itself. My little play poem links to that time not so long ago when witches were feared (and burned), when people had no easy answers for death or plague, and when children were not children at all.

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

#10: Hesitation

Johnston Canyon, Banff (Summer 2015)
Sometimes we go ahead,
feeling hesitant about the risk, and yet
the bridge holds firm.
Far below, the river cuts deep through limestone
and the green water roils white.
I'm glad to have come this way
where few travel. The quiet spreads out
around us, broken only by the hiss
of the water below.

Today the sun is warm on my back.
I cannot imagine winter in this place,
the river landlocked with ice,
the jays and green-backed swallows long gone.
This may well be our last trip,
hiking along Johnston Canyon,
before that long journey home.

We did hike in Banff and Jasper this summer, doing research for my current book. I can't resist sharing some of the photos I took along that narrow trail up Johnston Canyon. Click on any photo to see it a little larger.

And check out what others have written for OctPoWriMo HERE.

Friday, October 09, 2015

#9: Chimayó

I wander in the desert of my imagination, 
down along the banks of the Rio Arriba,
near a small gathering of placitas, little plazas,
some twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe,
to find you, Chimayó,
a place of weavers, the warp and woof
of Tewa tradition, those ancestral Puebloans 
who survived here
by making life in this dry place. 

Your hand woven blankets and rugs 
have scattered far beyond this valley,
treasures of comfort to place over the back of a sofa,
the design of feathers, gifts from the sky,
worked in berry-dyes of red
and gray, the colors of the desert,
and turquoise, 
the color of soul healing. 

I found my Chimayó weaving at a garage sale for six dollars, wrapped in a plastic bag. I picked it up and held it in my arms. I only knew I had to take it home, though its story and weaver remain unknown. 

The soft wool of this small weaving (34” x 60”) and the feather design inspired research where I learned more about Chimayó blankets, their history, and this particular style called Moki. The stylized feathers greet me in the morning and end the day.

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo HERE.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

#8: Simple Things

Simply Green (Jeff Stemshorn 2015)
Each morning begins
simply, just that moment
of being thankful for this day
even as summer ends,
and the Canada geese wend south,
plaintive calls marking their direction.
If I remember not to shudder
to a stop, surrounded by far too many
I can stay centered,
well aware of the beauty
of this moment,
the interconnectedness of all things,
your hand in mine,
a comfort and a promise.

Perhaps writing a poem a day will be enough. But computer problems have prevented me from reading what others have written. Will you go see what my writing colleagues are up to at OctPoWriMo?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

#7: Volunteer

Chocolate Lily (Camp 2015)

My grandmother called them volunteers,
those bright, sturdy plants that simply appear
in unexpected places, leftovers
from previous seasons,
the seeds forgotten, now
a yellow flowering vine
or a meandering pumpkin
taking over a corner.
Gardeners don’t always like
this unexpected bounty,
for we’re not talking tidy rows
deliberately planted.
Instead the seeds arrive,
perhaps floating on the wind
or dropped by birds. These self-set plants
grow on their own, tenacious,
sometimes invasive, bringing change,
surviving, despite another round of seasons,
roots digging deep,
something like me.

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo is the road less traveled. I could write a book about that . . . but I didn't see the prompt until after I had written today's poem, a melange of memories from growing up and feeling I didn't quite fit in. I've even experienced a volunteer or two in my own short-lived gardening. You might find this article on what to do with volunteer plants amusing, now that the season for growing things is nearly past.  

Read what other poems have been written for OctPoWriMo HERE

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

#6: Fall

Manito Park (Camp 2014)

Set the teapot aside.
Settle now by the window to admire
the change of colors: green to gold and red.
My gnarled fingers yet ache to write
words that seize this moment
of beauty and peace.
Generations of women, mothers to daughters,
sisters, and friends, all pass along this truth:
Every day, every age requires
tenacity and courage to choose
acts of love and hope that honor
this gift of life,
that nurture creativity in ourselves and others,
no matter how tiny these actions appear,
no matter how few the days.
Soar, leaves, and swirl,
as free and timeless as any bird,
as loved as any child.

Autumn Leaf Child by Philippe Put (Flickr)

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo was to explore the links between freedom, courage, and happiness. Whew! I certainly wandered around awhile before finding this poem. I think it takes much courage to be a creative person AND to be a good person, goals we strive for and may not always achieve. But there is always beauty and hope.

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo HERE.

Monday, October 05, 2015

#5: Big Sister, Little Sister

Big sister on momma's lap
welcomes little sister just born.
Who is this little baby girl? 
Can I touch her? Gently?

You can love her 
without really knowing
you are not the only child anymore,
that you will always have
a little sister somewhere,
toddling after you and
challenging you. 
Sometimes you won't want to share.
Later, you will be grateful for every memory.
Big sister, little sister.

Today's prompt for OctPoWriMo is simply love. I think of love in so many different and sometimes complicated (maybe always complicated) ways. Here, My granddaughter greets her new baby sister. What a world awaits them!

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo HERE.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

#4: Magic

Between The Lines
Between the Lines by Joel Robison

Whatever brings
the song alive, your breath
or mine, the clicking of the keyboard,
memories, imaginings, 
that space between
hope and despair,
to look within and know
with a kind of certainty
that today I will write.

OctoPoWriMo's prompt for October 4th is Magic. 

Joel Robison, a creative photographer I follow on Flickr, inspires me continually with his ability to say much with his images caught between what the camera sees and what he invents, whimsical, sweet, and filled with light. Click on the arrows on the picture (middle right) or check his works out HERE. Why not visit other writers who are writing a poem a day for October HERE.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

#3: Showing Up

Sea shells on the seashore by Gideon Chilton

Today’s 7:30 a.m. appointment,
a screening MRI.
I wait on the platform
in classic dead man’s pose.
“Breathe and hold still,”
a disembodied voice directs.
The machine whumps its own language,
the platform slides into the tube,
my closed eyelids trace flashing lights.
I imagine the round, narrow tube
encircling me now
with sea shells and green waves, 
unlimited horizons,
and the test is over.
“Have you had cancer before?” the attendant asks
as she helps me to the waiting room.
I look at my gnarled hands and shake my head.
We all travel this way, diagnosed or not,
sometimes cured,
but not immortal.

Note: This morning I sat in the waiting room, wondering how I could write a poem for OctPoWriMo today. Allen's MRI went fine, but I remember other friends and other times. Today's prompt: Showing up.

Friday, October 02, 2015

#2: Asssemblage

"House Sparrows" by Martha deJong-Lantik (Flickr)

Let the day begin
with carefully cut carrots,
celery, tomato, garbanzo beans,
black olives for contrast,
and sweet corn. I add garden
cucumber, summer tomato diced,
tossed over greens, your favorite,
a sprinkling of feta cheese, 
a snitch of basalmic.

Would that the rest of our days
could be so ordered.
And so I will remember these
preparations, mornings, noon, and night
as clearly as the words between us no one knows,
as fleeting as the five house sparrows 
that followed me on my early morning walk.

What would I say or do
if I had two years and eight months left
to live with you?
I’d rather not know.
I’d rather take each day as a gift:

Day 2 of OctPoWriMo. Are you writing a poem a day for the month of October? Please share!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

#1: Starry Night

Not sure why
I was afraid of the dark,
until I fell in love 
with Vincent van Gogh's painting,
"The Starry Night." 
His cypress touch a sky filled
with swirling clouds of stars.

Once I saw his paintings,
once I heard that poignant song,
"Starry, Starry Night,"
I will always hold close 
the ache between dreaming and doing,
that shiver between safe
and screaming terror.
Each breath brings choice;
each act can lead to beauty.

October begins with OctPoWriMo. This month continues a tradition when writers commit to writing a poem a day with OctPoWriMo. And so I will try. Today's prompt is clouds. You can begin with a free-write to see what words or images develop into a poem, as I did. Check out the linky to see what others have written.

You can hear Don McLean's moving tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, "Starry, Starry Night," released in 2001, on Youtube.  And there is only one Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch painter 1853-1890. Source of his "Starry Night" Wikipedia.