Archive for November, 2008

Baby Elias, my father as an infant (with a distant relative) circa
Fall 1924, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

5th of november
my father turns 85
best birthday ever

Words and words have been spilled about this moment. I have little to add.

But I do want to acknowledge today: November 5, 2008. As my mother said, “This is one of the happiest days of my life.”

For this step forward and for another year with my father: Thank you, grace.

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Passing Of Time, Robert Frost as a young man, from Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Passing Of Time II, Robert Frost as a middle-aged man, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Passing Of Time III, Robert Frost as an aging man, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Passing Of Time, Robert Frost, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

It’s November 4th, 2008 and history is being made in the United States of America. Liz and I voted this morning at our local precinct in Minneapolis; ybonesy is out in New Mexico continuing her good work. I take comfort in the realization that we all contribute to the process in the ways we are able. Some are out canvassing, some write articles for the newspaper or on their blogs, some work at the polls, some pray and hold the space, a kind of quiet peace.

All contributions matter in times like this, from the most subtle to the most vigorous. And I have a great deal of gratitude that we live in a democracy that allows us to have a voice, to vote our conscience, whoever that may be. Yet it occurs to me that the ordinary day-to-day things continue to go on around us. We don’t stop living our lives.

Yesterday, we got a new roof on our house, called the dentist office, cleaned the living room, folded laundry, stocked up on groceries in preparation for a long and busy week. Tomorrow night we’ll attend the next Poetry & Meditation Group with Langston Hughes. Yesterday, ybonesy and I celebrated 2 years of writing together on red Ravine. Tomorrow we’ll know the results of the election and a long, tumultuous, political process will come to an end.

The extraordinary lives by the ordinary. Practice continues. Writing continues. Life continues. Someone will be born; someone will die.

In our last few Poetry & Meditation groups, we continued with the Dead Poets series. Since we can no longer send the poets postcards, Teri addressed cards to the directors of the Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson homes, thanking them for their Great Effort in keeping poetry alive.

We all signed our names in a gesture of gratitude and kindness. Because in moments when we are unsure, or times when we want to give up, these people, places, and books become our mentors. The preservation of literary places is vital to our creative livelihood.

So on this electric Tuesday, I’m celebrating the historic; I’m celebrating the ordinary. November 3rd and 5th are as important as November 4th.  Every day counts. If you feel anxiety about the election results, sometimes it helps to go back to basics — writing, journaling, a practice. Both Frost and Dickinson wrote about everyday events in their lives.

In times of uncertainty, I find peace in expressing gratitude for the people who came before us — because they pave the way for the history being made today. A prize-winning American author of children’s literature, Virginia Euwer Wolff (not to be confused with British novelist, Virginia Woolf) shows her love of Emily Dickinson in the Introduction to I’m Nobody! Who are You?, a children’s book about Dickinson’s poetry.

Here’s an excerpt from Virginia Wolff’s tribute to Emily Dickinson:

In my studio I have a quotation from Emily Dickinson: “My business is Circumference.”

Near my desk I keep a photo of Emily Dickinson’s bedroom and writing table. The photograph reminds me that writing — yours, mine, ours — is important in our relationship with the world, even if no one else ever sees it. Even if it was to stay in bundles in our bedrooms, it would still have pungence, spunk, and heart — if only because we had the courage to put it on paper.

In our time, this secret woman who thought of life as “mystic territory” is listed in the Academy of American Poets and crowds of eager tourists visit the large brick house she lived in at 280 Main Street in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Some thoughts on what to call her. I feel that calling her “Miss Dickinson” shows respect for her dignity and her veil of seclusion. But in the privacy of my own Home, looking at the picture of her writing table on my windowsill and reading her “Circumference” statement on my wall, I call her Emily. You’ll decide what seems right for you. I think she would want it that way.

-Virginia Euwer Wolff

What strikes me is that it’s not a photograph of the poet herself that Wolff holds close to her own writing life. Instead, it’s a place, an ordinary object, a moment in time — an image of Dickinson’s bedroom and her writing table — the place Emily rested her hand when she penned her last poem.

–posted on red Ravine, Election Day, Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, historic day, ordinary day, with gratitude to all who have led us here

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Roosevelt & Rose, photo © 2007-08 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

I wish I had a better picture. He really was a good-looking duck. A domesticated mallard, iridescent green and blue feathers against black, a thin white band around his neck.

I’ll always remember him as best pal to our favorite chicken, an Americana named Rose. That is, until she got eaten by coyotes or raccoons last year. Ducks are social creatures, so after Rose was killed, Roosevelt hung out with the turkeys.

We didn’t start out wanting a duck for a pet. Flash back to Spring 2003: Neighbors Nicole and Julie walked over bearing a traumatized wild duck wrapped in a blanket. Their young lab cornered the poor baby and separated it from its mother. Knowing we had chickens and turkeys, Nicole and Julie asked if we might add a baby duck to our brood. Sure, we said, and we named it Waddle.

But ducks like their own kind, so we went out and bought a companion baby duck at the local mercantile. That one we named Roosevelt.

Waddle the Wild could fly, and fly it did all the time, out of the bird pen. Roosevelt, the true waddler, waddled along the fence line, grounded—one of the downsides of domestication.

Rafael and Otis knew Waddle was wild. They put their ears back and crouched around, following the wild duck as it flew across the yard. The poor duck’s run-in with the neighbors’ lab didn’t teach it a thing. It seemed to trust dogs, and it often flew right to Rafael and Otis, whose instincts just couldn’t keep them from wanting to kill and eat the wild duck. And much as we tried to protect Waddle by keeping it in the pen, it couldn’t shake its wild ways.

Sure enough, one day, only about two weeks after the wild duck joined our family, we came home from errands and noticed Rafael and Otis slinking about the yard. Waddle was missing, its feathers strewn all over the place.

And so Roosevelt became the sole duck of the brood. He immediately bonded to Rose, following her everywhere. When coyotes or raccoons—we don’t know which—came one night last year and raided our hen house, Roosevelt survived by jumping into a buried stock tank. That move saved his life, although we lost poor Rose and a few other chickens that we’d had for years.

This past year, with Rose gone, Roosevelt has been constant companion of the turkeys. During the day, it was the turkeys and Roosevelt always, cruising about the place. At night, when the turkeys roosted in the trees, Roosevelt slept somewhere on the ground nearby.

And herein lies the fate of Roosevelt. After having survived the perils of living among wild creatures of the Rio Grande Valley for five years, Roosevelt’s luck finally ran out. Two or three coyotes, probably with a den somewhere in the far corner of our meadow, were prowling near the house last Sunday night. Jim got up five times to chase them off, but even so, they managed to get two toms (who either got flustered and flew down from the trees or weren’t roosting in the branches to begin with). The coyotes also got Roosevelt.

Monday morning as I drove Dee for carpool, I noticed a coyote out by the far orchard, eating something. I called Jim on my cell phone; he walked out there and found the feathers and bones of the turkeys. Later, he found Roosevelt’s feathers.

And so this unique duck’s life comes to an end. He was a good pet. I wish we could have kept him safer, but he never liked being in the pen while the turkeys were up in the trees. He took his chances, and this time he didn’t make it.

Good-bye, Mr. Roosevelt. We’ll miss you. Dee and Em ask that you say hello to Rose for them.

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