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February Snow Times 2

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Snow is a rare thing here, although we often see it up on the mountain.  Even more unusual, this year we’ve had two snows in two weeks.

P1010199The first made a lovely covering, for the short time it lasted.  Here is the view through my study window.P1010203

The second week’s snow was a heavy wet one, giving a different effect.  It even covered the bonsai that sits at the edge of my patio.P1010205

 

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I wrote this poem for a friend who used snow falling as a symbol of depression.  That seems unlikely in the desert southwest.

February Morning
for John

He tells me snow
is a product of the air’s
despair.  Perhaps

he’s right: seedheads
of the tall grass are weighed
down, shawled in white.

But each twig on the tree
is highlighted, while the earth
sleeps cozy under its blanket

and every thirsty plant
will drink the melt; the birds
can feed again.

 

I think we’ve had our winter.  Spring winds should be here soon.

 

Twyla Tharp Is My New Guru

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scan0001Last fall the News Hour had an interview with Twyla Tharp celebrating her new book, Keep It Moving.  Its subject is the importance of keeping yourself moving as you age. When I went to order it I discovered that she also has done a book called The .Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life. I go for creative coaching books, so I ordered that one too.

They both looked so good that I read them simultaneously, a chapter in this one, then a chapter in the other.  Each book has twelve chapters.  Each book has exercises accompanied by episodes from Tharp’s career.  Keep It Moving is nicely organized, with one exercise per chapter.  The Creative Habit has thirty-two exercises, more about focus and mental preparation than the physical.

The television interview showed repeated images of Tharp exercising, with an energy and agility far beyond what most of us near her age can even think about.  Fortunately, the exercises in the book are not that drastic.  She includes jumps and endurance pieces, but it’s clear that what matters is to, as the title says, “Keep it moving.”

The first exercise is a particularly intriguing one.  She calls it “Take Up Space.”  Don’t start shrinking may be what she means, but she avoids the negative.  Stride when you walk.  Spread out your papers on the table if you’re at a meeting.  Is this real exercise?  Maybe not, but it’s a great opener.

Another is “Mark your day.”  She describes dancers waiting for the subway.  They keep moving though in small space, doing the movements of their dance with restraint but in real time.  Her challenge for the reader is to not separate “work” and “exercise” as you move throughout the day.  She writes: “Thinking of computer or desk work as one job and then exercise as another seems to me like holding two halves of a card deck in separate hands.”  Those cards need to be shuffled.

My favorite of the exercises I have so far put into my routine is “Squirm.” Like a worm, she says.  Starting with the torso she gives a sequence for moving, stretching, curling and arching, covering the whole body, and all of it to be done before getting out of bed in the morning and having to deal with gravity.

That’s only three of the recommendations in this elegant, short book.  But it’s time for me to leave the computer and get moving again.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

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I brought some new color into my house in the form of two poinsettia plants left over at church.

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However, these two cream-colored plants are not the interesting story here.  It’s the plant in the middle that is most surprising to me.  At this time last year it was a typical red poinsettia.  The surprise is that it has continued in good health for a full year; I’ve had to trim it back a little once in a while.  In the past, I’ve been pleased if my Christmas poinsettia lasted until Easter.

I don’t know why this one lasted, but I hope it is partly that I paid more attention.  I have only this year made it a habit to check my houseplants every morning.  It has become part of my routine, while my morning tea is steeping, so I don’t forget and let them go dry.

Will I remember to report back on how the new plants do?

Happy second half of Christmas and I wish all a good new year.

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A Tanka for the Solstice

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The shortest day here has ten hours of sun, making eleven hours of daylight.

At my house the sun comes up over the mountain at 7:20 a.m., nearly fifteen minutes after the official sunrise for the city.  There is still light at 5:00 p.m.  This is a nice place to spend the winter, though it has been a bit cold lately; any day the morning temperature goes below freezing feels cold to us.

On good days I am at my desk before the sun shows up.  I watch the increasing light on my back yard tree and bushes.  Here’s what I see:

Signals on stone, light
through gaps between branches as
sun clears the mountain,
friendly wave of a morning
walker not breaking his stride.

What else do I do to honor the solstice?  I close out my summer/fall writing folder and start one for winter/spring.

The Best Stories

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As I set up the creche this week, it occurred to me, as it does almost every year, that no one has ever asked me why there are five kings.

P1010187The reason is that two sets have been combined, one we had in my childhood at home, and a second smaller one my mother got when we found ourselves in Rome for most of a year when I was twelve.

P1010183So there are not only extra kings, there are two Marys and two Josephs.  It’s interesting to note the fixed iconography of these figures.  Though their poses differ, their clothes match: Joseph in white and brown, Mary in pink and blue, with a white head covering.  And all the figures are on green bases, as if they were out in a field.

It’s easy to deal with the extra Mary and Joseph.  They become the innkeeper and his wife.  Has anyone told this story from the perspective of the Innkeeper’s wife?  I’m not aware of any, but it seems a logical extension.

P1010185The proper question then, should not be “Why are there five kings” but “Why aren’t there six?”  How did one get lost?  I have no idea.  And I wonder if anyone has ever done a story about a king getting lost (not, like Monty Python, sending them all to the wrong house).  What would become of the astrologer who read the stars differently and went off in another direction?  What might he discover?

The best classic stories offer new avenues to explore.

Time and Time Again

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Last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday.  We sang one of my favorite hymns (I admit, I have many) “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The last verse begins, “Crown him the lord of years, the potentate of time.”

That phrase, “the potentate of time” is marvelous in sound, with its string of “t”s, its long vowels. its strong iambic rhythm.  But what is a potentate of time?  After it stuck with me awhile, I decided to explore the idea in a poem:

The Potentate of Time

As CEO, I cannot allow loss
of minutes dropped by badly
calibrated clocks, seconds

split by timers racing after
ever faster miles, or precious
nanoseconds sliced, spit out

by precision machines: all
the clumsy human attempts
to alter time.

I dispatch work crews to
sweep corners and gutters, sift
bits from curbs and drains,

bring their gathered goods into
my laboratory where skilled
artisans sort, stitch, splice.  My

expanding universe requires
recovery, repair, reuse
of every particle.

I chose to put this poem in first person in order to leave it to the reader to decide for her- or himself whether the potentate is male, female or beyond gender.

Paley front coverThis poem is included in my book, Made and Remade, which has a whole section on the theme of time, as is fitting for a collection that starts with a text 200 years old.  (More info on the Books page.)

 

Now the cycle of church seasons moves on to Advent, another year begins, and Sunday by Sunday the Christian story is told all over again.

In My Yard

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It’s nice that the weather has cooled enough to be able to spend much of the day outdoors, when other things don’t interfere.  But these pictures are about the edges of the day.

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The purple grass in late afternoon.  The heads are purple.  A splendid mix of color in the leaves, as they age at different times.

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The chamisa flowers are so bright that they seem to be catching the sun even though the sun isn’t up over the mountain yet.

‘Tis the season to catch up on weeding.  You can see I’ve made some progress around the edges of the plant — or perhaps you can’t since you don’t know what it looked like before — there’s always more to do.

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