Monday, August 31, 2009


My youth was a loud, rambunctious play
With a boisterous cast of parents, teachers, pals
Who stood across the footlights of my stage
Or sometimes simply waited in the wings
of my growing up –

Skip Halfpenny, the scamp whom teachers loved
To scold, And Martha Johnson, whose parents
Didn’t seem to like her very much.
My mother said it was because they were afraid -
They’d had four children, only two remained.

Mr, Stewart led the orchestra and band,
and we were good!
He called on us to do more than we could
He taught us the mathematical reality that
The whole, in orchestra, and perhaps in life,
Is often greater than its parts.
We learned it playing Rimsky-Korsakov.

I see my parents’ friends who smoked and drank
Played poker: nickel ante, dealers’ choice –
I see our houses, stages where we’ve acted
I wouldn’t know them now, they’ve been redone

The lights upon stage on which my childhood
         was played
Have flared, then flickered, finally gone out,
All the actors too are gone,
One at a time, they left.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Prayer Shawls

At our church we have a group of women who meet regularly to knit shawls, which we then give to people – church members, relatives of members, friends or neighbors who might be wanting or needing comfort and prayer. The knitting group varies from a few to many. The knitting is done at bi-weekly meetings and in between. The yarn is purchased or donated, and the knitting patterns are as varied as the members of the group.

In addition to the shawls, the knitting group makes “prayer pockets”, small squares made into pockets into which are placed a talisman of some sort representing to the recipient the presence of God or their guardian angel or their “higher power”. If you are going into a scary situations, whether it’s a dentist’s office, a principal’s office, or an oncologist’s office, it is like taking your guardian angel with you when you carry a prayer pocket in your pocket. It reminds us that we are never alone.

The knitting group consists of experienced knitters, (even one who has taught knitting and spins her own yarn) – and people just learning to knit. Some of the members don’t knit at all. They crochet.

While the shawl is being made, or the prayer pocket, we don’t know who will get them. That means that while we make them, we pray for everyone, whether they think they need those prayers or warm wishes or not. We pray for each other. We pray for people we’ve encountered that day, including the checker at the grocery store, or the waitress at Denny’s, the kid we passed lugging his backpack to school, or the person we’re having a hard time liking. We pray for the guy who cut us off on the road, and we pray for the doctors and dentists who will be treating the people we love.

On Sundays the completed shawls and prayer pockets are blessed during the service before they are given away to wrap someone in our love and our prayers. The good part is that the recipient does not know exactly who knit their shawl, so they can assume that we all did.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I love to do the laundry
Cause its satisfying, neat
When folded, put in drawers, on shelves -
Cause when its done, its done
I know that I’ve done one small thing
Domestic folks would deem

My washer does its noisy work -
It swishes, pops and spins
I disappear, don’t interfere, I let it toil in peace
Until it beeps to tell me “ Time
To move this soggy load.”

The dryer smells of freshener
I take the last load’s lint –
(It’s colored from the load of wash
I’d done some days before) -
I set the dials, wipe my brow, pretend I’m all worn out
Then once again I leave the scene,
My day’s work halfway done!

The folded loads of laundry tell
Of where we’ve worn the clothes
Of what we’ll wear next week
Of what we’ll keep or give away
Or save as rags, or toss.
And now its time to celebrate
That this week’s laundry’s

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sestina to Lake Michigan
I walked away from life to seek some peace
Beside the great lake’s constant, rhythmic motion.
I left behind the city with its sounds -
The cacophony of its urban dance.
My ears expected soothing, whispering waves.
My shoes removed, my toes curled in the sand

But as I walked I felt the life in sand
Felt tiny creatures searching out their peace
Felt living beings even in the waves
That beat the shore in slow and even motion
It seemed that all about me was a dance
With wind and lake and sand the only sound.

The grasses swayed and beckoned, quiet sounds
Those grasses, long, their feet held fast in sand
They seemed to call me, join our mystic dance -
Just feel, they said, and you will sense a peace
That doesn’t come in stillness but in motion
Listen to the woodwind songs of waves.

And then the wind came up and beat the waves
The woodwind tones took on a brassy sound
Instead of quiet there came more frantic motion
As frothy fountains beat upon the sand
I felt myself swept up – this was not peace
But vital music forcing me to dance.

It felt to be a wild exuberant dance
We swayed and bent and spread our arms and waved
I was, in that strange world, a little piece
A quiet voice in a sea of sound
I was a part of wind, and grass and sand
And joined with them in an eternal motion.

The beach transformed, for everything was motion
I felt that all of life was in our dance
The wind blew up the tiny grains of sand
Which fell again to rest upon the waves
No human noise disturbed the throbbing sound
Of life upon that beach where I sought peace.

I found my peace within unceasing motion -
I danced to sounds no orchestra could make
I was at one with waves and sand and grasses.

The painting for this poem is courtesy of Lisa Stark-Berryman, Santa Cruz, CA
A sestina is a highly structured poem consisting of six six-line stanzas followed by a tercet, for a total of thirty-nine lines. The same set of six words ends the lines of each of the six-line stanzas, but in a different order each time; if we number the first stanza's lines 123456, then the words ending the second stanza's lines appear in the order 615243

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I’d flown across the country to see my cousin Tom. Seated in the small one person bungalow he’d bought the year before, we knew this was the last we’d see each other. His hairless head and missing brows and lashes told of painful treatments, ended now.

The palm pilot in his hand contained the phone numbers, schedules for the folks who came to see him, connections with the life outside his room. “I’m not gone yet,” he said, “I still have things to do. My men’s group comes tonight. You can come, too.”

A clergyman, he saw himself a mentor now. He asked me, would I like to hear what happened to his marriage? How he left his parish priesthood, almost got defrocked? How he’d lived before the cancer claimed him barely sixty days before?

And then he told me what I had not known of him, and shared with me his life, his pain, his story. It is a tale I’ll recount someday, and put together with the boy he was, red haired and funny, chasing through the woods and dunes and beaches of Lake Michigan.

Monday, August 17, 2009


There is a digger pine down by the lake
It leans, the branches sag, its trunk is two feet thick
The tree is old, it has a tired stance –
Yet in the upper limbs the place is jumping
Blue herons, egrets and some cormorants
Have made the pine their home –
Despite its insubstantial look.
We call this tree the condominium.

The herons and the egrets when they come
Must circle, sometimes several times
Before they make their landing on the fragile
Twigs of branches. They clap their wings
To gain precarious balance and
To let the other tenants know they’re home.
Sometimes they misgauge their space.
Great cries erupt when this occurs.
The branches shake as these long legged birds
Assert their ownership
Of each exclusive limb.

We worry when rain heavy storms with screaming winds
Descend upon the neighborhood -
The lake becomes a tiny sea with waves.
At times it overflows its banks.

We think the digger pine just isn’t safe,
Its branches loaded with the nests of birds.
We wonder – is its lean a little more acute?
Has seepage undermined the roots?
Should not the birds find better, stronger trees
In which to raise their young?
Or will their instincts tell them
When the tree begins to
Tip too much
And fall uprooted.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Yesterday was my day to donate to the Blood Source. This might be considered a generous act, and perhaps it is, but I have to admit to ulterior motives!

First, when you are my age, there isn’t much of you that people want any more – I’m too old to be even tested for bone marrow, my eyes are dim, my donatable organs have been pretty much used, although I proudly carry my donor card. The blood bank loves my blood – and they love my platelets even more. They call me up when its time for me to donate, they thank me profusely even before I have made the appointment.

Yesterday, as I walked in to be interviewed, I was handed a certificate for a “pint for a pint” of Baskin Robbins ice cream. ( I now have almost enough to have my own ice cream social. All I need are the strawberries, bananas, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, pineapple, nuts and cherries. I have a stunning variety of tee shirts from the blood bank! Then, since I am a platelet donor, I get weighed. That is, perhaps, for me, the hardest part of donating platelets. They never weighed me when I gave whole blood. They took my word for my weight, which remained unchanged year after year, despite all visible evidence to the contrary. So I take off my shoes, glasses, watch, etc. and close my eyes while they do this.

Giving platelets takes longer, from one to two hours depending on how many they are taking. They settled me in and gave me a choice of movies – a huge choice of movies. Yesterday they were doing one unit of platelets and one of packed red blood cells, so I didn’t think 67 minutes was time enough for a movie. Retired people are particularly valuable platelet donors – because we have the time. With platelets we can give more often. There it is – another senior advantage. It is not every day I get the chance to lie back and read a good book for 67 minutes.

Blood bank people are amazing. The phlebotomists (great word!) have never missed with me. The 67 minutes pass quickly.

Then comes the really good part – the donuts. Only when I give blood can I justify eating a wonderful, sinful, donut! As I sit savoring each bite, I pick up a heart shaped sticker that says “Be nice to me today, I gave blood”. I attach it to my forehead for the ride home.

I have now given 79 units of blood. (You get extra credit – two for one – for donating platelets or packed red cells.)(Women are no longer allowed to give plasma at our blood bank). One more pint of blood and I will have given ten gallons – and will be eligible for the Blood Source’s annual dinner. Fred has offered to take me out to dinner for no blood, and I must say I’ve taken him up on that lots of times – but this dinner will be special. I will wear a blood source tee shirt!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A typical garden on our walk
Every morning, as part of my senior fitness program, I get up at six in order to walk at seven with my friend and neighbor, Rosemary. Although we are both retired, we walk early to beat the heat. Before I leave the house I turn on the whole house fan, and by the time I get home an hour later, it is time to close up the house and turn off the fan, as the temperature outside is already rising to a less than comfortable level.

Rosemary is walking as part of her training for a pilgrimage across Spain. I am walking to stave off old age. This week Rosemary is off learning Spanish. I am forced to exert enormous amounts of self discipline, and walk on my own. So far, two days out of two, I have done that.

Later in the day, when I treat myself to something delicious and sinful, I justify my excesses by the fact that I have walked. When my children succumb to the temptation to raise their parents, I can tell them that I have walked. We’re proud of you, they say.

We pass some spectacular yards and gardens on our walk. I am impressed by the creativity and talent of my neighbors. My plants struggle to survive. If there were a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants, I think my plants would turn me in.

Inspired by my neighbors, Fred and I bought some plants in pots. We think our soil is unhealthy,

home to lots of moles and gophers and other root eating creatures. Pots supply the instant gratification we crave – none of this waiting for seeds to germinate. We have lined our walk with gopher-proof wine barrels and deer resistant flowering plants in pots.

Our friendly gophers

Each day we are barked at or sniffed by dogs, glared at by families of wild turkeys, honked at by families of geese. We watch some neighbors retrieve their morning papers, and others leave for work. We gloat a bit that we don’t have to do that any more, although both of us secretly miss the work we did. As we discuss our plans for the day, we marvel at how very full our days are, and wonder how we ever had time for work in the first place.

Soon Rosemary will be walking with her backpack. Not me. I shall admire her stamina in much the same way as I admire my neighbors’ gardens.

Rosemary, next week

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Three doe are standing in our yard

They’ve eaten up the roses – that was last spring

One is just now stretching up To eat some privet leaves.

She balances for just a bit on her hind legs,

To reach the berries well above her head.

Another licks and grooms the smaller doe

Perhaps her daughter – spotted fawn of just a year ago.

She licks her face, cleans out her ears -

Suddenly she turns,

Ears shaped like stalks extend

And point at me.

I think the deer hear sounds we’ve never heard -

Miles away or just beneath the ground -

I wonder what our yard sounds like to them.

The doe who ate the leaves is tired now,

She folds herself down upon the grass.

Head high, ears up, she chews and sniffs

and turns her head and sniffs again

Discerning odors I have never smelt

Do deer dislike aromas we abhor?

Do they judge the world they see and hear and smell

As good or bad - or only, is it safe?

I watch the mother deer lift up her right rear leg

And scratch her chin.

The mourful cries of coyotes pierce the night -

I saw one once, walking down our road

At dusk,

He turned and looked at me with yellow eyes.

I wished him well.

Mountain lions, too, live not too far from us

Sleek, gold majestic creatures, like the deer, astute

In all their senses, searching prey to keep their

Cubs alive.

Sometimes our deer are gone a day or two

Sometimes a week – I watch for them -

And when the deer return, I thank my God

For keeping them unharmed for one more day.

And then I wonder what kind of God it is

That fills the world with predators and prey?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weighty Thoughts by Kay

Have you ever wondered what would happen
If our domestic cats
Had opposing thumbs?
If they could open up the doors
Of cupboards and refrigerators?
If they could help themselves
To tuna fish?

And dogs - I watched my neighbors riding bikes
With their dog, Jake, panting, right behind
I read his thoughts (I do that well, you know)
“These folks of mine they just don’t understand.
All week long they’re lazy, sit around, won’t play,
And then on Saturday they say ‘Let’s exercise!'
But do they walk or run so’s I can match their pace?
Oh, no, they ride their bikes, start off down hill
Expecting me to run along behind, and never think
That I’m a dog that needs to stretch
Before I sprint!”