Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poem: Dandy Lion

Illustration by Philip Bourland © 2011

A Dandy Lion

I do not like a dandelion,
my mother says to me,
it grows and grows from dawn to dusk,
it’s just too much to see.

A dandy lion, I say, that’s great,
 he’ll be my new best friend;
he’ll wear a shiny purple coat,
and start a fashion trend.

My mother shakes her head at me,
no lion lives out back,
it’s just an ugly yellow weed,
that grows from every crack.

But I believe in what I know,
and what I know is true,
I’ll build a dandy lion shack;

he’ll live out back,
and that’s a fact.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jane Goodall, Chimpanzees and the Human Heart

Dr. Jane Goodall with chimpanzee (photo -

Jane Goodall, Chimpanzees 
and the Human Heart 
“It’s tragic that with this most sophisticated brain of any creature that has ever walked the planet Earth, we are inexcusably destroying our only home.  I think we’ve lost wisdom and I think we’ve lost the wisdom of the indigenous people who made a major decision based on how will this affect our people in the future instead of how will this affect me now or at the next shareholder meeting or my next political campaign.  If we’ve lost wisdom, why?  Is there a disconnect between this incredibly clever brain and the human heart, and if so, how do we connect them again?  I think it will be the young and those of us who are caring desperately to help the young people who will change things around.”  
Jane Goodall – Columbus, OH – March 23, 2011

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Jane Goodall speak at a luncheon in Columbus, Ohio.  When I arrived, I was initially struck by the high energy in the room.  The event was held downtown and was a gathering of high-powered business people who meet weekly to share lunch, business cards and make connections.  I am not a high-powered business person, but bought a ticket to attend this once in a lifetime event. 

After we ate, Jane Goodall was introduced, and the energy in the room made a palpable shift.  A deflation occurred, not in a negative way, but in a positive ‘my ego is taking a break’ kind of way.  Jane Goodall does that to people.  This petite 77 year old woman who has spent over 50 year of her life working to save the chimpanzees and our planet has a way of taking ego, power and money out of the equation.  She speaks of things like altruism, a higher purpose and the resilience of nature, in a quiet, conversational voice that slowly lures you into a deep calm and hopeful serenity.  She seemingly has the answers and also knows which questions to ask. 

In her early 20’s she worked as a secretary for Dr. Louis Leakey in Africa and went on safari looking for fossilized remains of early man.  From there she obtained funding to go to Gombe National Forest in Tanzania and begin her studies of chimpanzees.  She was the first to observe chimps making and using tools. In her lifetime, she has been involved in the longest running field study of any group of animals anywhere.  Some of the things she learned along the way:  chimpanzees are capable of abstractions and generalizations and can recognize themselves in a mirror; they have a sense of humor and can use over 400 signs to communicate with humans.  They greet each other, kiss, embrace, pat each other on the back, swagger, make a fist and do all of this in the same context as humans.  They express love and altruism.  They also have a dark side (much like humans) and are capable of primitive warfare.  They love their offspring with great loyalty and affection.  And she learned that biologically there is only a 1% difference between chimpanzees and humans.  Dr. Goodall’s research has taken her to the far reaches of the planet and ultimately brought her back home.

In 1986, Dr. Goodall knew she needed to leave the forest and share what she knew.  Encountering great apathy among young people, she worked to give them a purposeful outlet.  In 1991, she formed the Roots and Shoots program, initially with 12 Tanzanian students.  After 20 years, the program is now in 126 countries with 16,000 active groups around the world.  The young people involved work to help people, animals and the environment.  Jane is hopeful because of the youth.  She sees and hears of their creativity, their desire for change and the innovations they put forth and thus retains hope for us and for all creatures both great and small.

Jane Goodall is a woman who followed her dreams and ended up forever changing our understanding of the world.  Her peaceful walk upon the earth has left an indelible mark.  We just need to heed her words and example and try to connect our very clever brains to our human hearts.  Goodness and grace will most assuredly follow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dear Planet Earth

© 2007 - West Virginia

Dear Planet Earth,                                                                                       
Where do I begin?  I have hurt you in so many ways that my apology will surely ring hollow.  You’ve always been there for me through all the ups and downs - never complaining.  Day in and day out, I know I can count on you.  You’re steady.  You provide everything I need.  You are simply the best and I take advantage of you in the worst ways, never saying thank you; treating you with a casual disregard.  I’m even afraid to look you in the eye; doing so would hurt as much as staring at the red hot sun.  No, an apology is simply not enough, but it is all I have to give.

You never say no to me.  If I ask for more, you try to comply.  I feel you shudder and quake at times, but you never deny me.  

It’s funny how it works. A psychologist would surely classify us as having a classic abusive relationship.  I dish it out and you keep coming back for more.  I don’t know why you continue to care about me.  The last time I did something really nice for you was…….well, I’m not really sure when that was.  Pitiful, that’s what I am.

I’m going to change.  I promise this time.  I really mean it.  Are you listening?  I feel you turning away.  Maybe if you talked back, it would help our relationship.  

I do love you.  I look around on a day like today and I realize what I have in you.  Perfection, that’s what you are.  Your beauty astounds me - your virtues more plentiful than the stars.  I beg you to forgive me.  I promise this time it will be different.  

I know.   I’ll plant a tree today in your honor.  There, I made you smile.

With love and deep admiration,
A Citizen of the Earth

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poem: Care Package

Care Package

A cookie baking day,
Chocolate chippy,
Gooey, messy,
Yummy, scrumptious,



Smiling chef,
Cookies bagged,
Lovingly sent,

Care package
Just for you,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poem: Dream Snatchers

I attended a writing conference today.  While I learned many things about the writing process and the world of publishing, I also learned something most invaluable.  Don't let anyone steal your dreams. 

Dream Snatchers

My dreams go with
Me like
A silken cape
Flowing freely
Along a garden path
Where who I am
And what I am
Takes root,

I sprout
Into the loveliest
Of fruits
Bearing gifts
To share,

My dreams are real,
Don’t snatch them now,
 I have just begun,
You’ll see
How real my dreams
Can be,

I just need some time
to follow the path
In my garden.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poem: Mysterious Really

 Mysterious Really

I watched a crow fly
to the top boughs
Of a towering pine
Carrying a large stick
For placement in its nest,
Preparing for precious eggs
And beloved baby crows,

I’ve seen geese in pairs
Around town,
Staking out spots for nesting,
Glaring at passersby
Who might disturb their chosen sites
For raising their young -
Much like we might do,

Life arises
In unlikely places
In spring,
Bursting from beneath the soil,
Flowers bloom,
Frozen earth gives way to
Crocuses, daffodils,
Forsythias blossom into
glorious shades of yellow
Mirroring the sun’s bright rays,

Mysterious really
This time called spring,
How life arises from the smallest of things,
A seed, an egg, an acorn,
A grain, a bulb,

Life arises,
Spring arises,
We are renewed
And reminded
Of all that is good
And precious,

Will you awaken too
and feel renewed?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem: My Oak Tree

Service Berry Tree - Ohio - 1990

My Oak Tree

My oak tree has taken me far and away,
I’ve climbed to the top; I’ve stayed there all day.

On Monday I sat on the highest wide branch,
 I rode my fast bronco and checked on my ranch.

On Tuesday I sat in the crow’s nest and cried,
“Ahoy all ye mateys, let’s show off our pride.”

On Wednesday I snaked among the thick leaves;
the Amazon jungle was teeming with thieves.

Thursday brought rain and the winds of high seas;
I lowered the sails and clung by my knees.

On Friday I searched for mines full of gold;
my eyes sought bright treasures to polish and hold.

On Saturday birds were flush in the trees;
I explored the horizon for tropical bees.

Sunday brought rest; I read in a nook,
of pirates and sailors who leapt from my book.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Short Story: Pie and Poetry in the Garden

 Pie and Poetry in the Garden

She sat in her garden and cried,
A babe in her arms by and by,
Sunflower seeds beginning to sprout,
Pumpkin shoots tender and fine,

“Yoo Hoo, Mary, whatcha doin’ sitting in the middle of your garden?
Writing more of that fancy poetry?  It’s mighty fine, but it’s not gonna put food on your table.”

“Hey there, Violet.  The baby and I are doing okay.  I’m getting a little support from Charlie and I’ve applied for food stamps.  Plus, I just got called for a cashier job at the Pick ‘n Pay.  It’s part-time, but that’s good because I’ll still have time for my writing.”

‘Mary, you know I admire you an’ all, but that poetry ain’t gonna get you out of Nickel, Ohio.  People here wouldn’t even understan’ most of those words you use.  I know I don’t.  If we had more smarts and two nickels to rub together we’d all be outta here.  Those two years away at college put fancy ideas in your head.”

“Violet, give the good folks of Nickel a little credit.  I’m just telling stories through my poems.  Everybody loves a good story.  You’ll see.  One of these days I’ll sell a poem to a big magazine and then I’ll be on my way.”

“You just keep dreamin’.  That’s what I love about you.  Toodle-loo.”

A scent of a rose descends from the gate,
Lilacs burst purple and pink,
Rabbits hop past in the hope of a snack,
A bee searches nectar to drink,

Summer passed, the garden grew, blueberries ripened and flowers bloomed.  Mary’s poetry blossomed as well, written page after page telling stories of her 25 years in Nickel.  She sat in the sun, nursing her wee baby son and dreaming of a day yet to come.  People stopped and chatted and became fans of her poetic flair, discussing it at the diner, gas station, church and even the Pick ‘n Pay.  There was a discernible pride in their homegrown poet.  On August 15th, a sign went up on her fence. 

Pie and Poetry in the Garden,
Friday night - 8:00 p.m.
Bring a lawn chair
Coffee and Fresh Blueberry Pie

Mary wasn’t sure who would show up.  She put flyers around town.  Violet spread the word and Pastor Johnson put it in the bulletin.  Friday came and she waited.  About 7:00 p.m. people began arriving and setting up chairs in her small front yard.  The sun was hot, but a cool breeze was beginning to stir the night.  By 8:00, over one hundred people were gathered for the reading.  Some of the crowd overflowed to the sidewalk, many leaning over the picket fence.  Mary walked to her porch, picked up her notebook and began to read.  Poem after poem she read, concluding with an ode to her hometown.


Small town,
Big heart,
For dreamers, lovers,
Givers and makers
Of homes
For those they love,
Time for those in need,
Care for those who ail,
Respect for those who dream,

You are my home,
 My heart,
The garden of my life,
 Vine from which I cling,
Crop of finest fruit,
Nectar rich and sweet,
You are my people,
You are my home.

Everyone rose and cheered as the last verse ceased to resonate through the crowd.  People came forward to share hugs, praise, congratulations, and to get in line for pie. 

A stranger came forward.  He had been standing outside the gate.  Mary had seen his camera pointed her way a few times during the reading. 

“Love your poetry.  I’m Josh Williams and I’m traveling through northern Ohio doing a series of stories on factory closings and the economy.  I’m with the New York Times.  I would love to do a feature story on you.  Would you be willing?”

Mary smiled and said, “Sure.”  She felt a blossom burst forth from her budding heart as she shook his hand and said, “How about some pie and then we’ll have a little chat?”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poem: Good Mother

My mother with 11 of her 13 grandchildren in 1989

I’ve been thinking about my mother lately. She died at age 73 in 1997.  I was 44 years old.  I loved her, was sometimes impatient with her, often wished we could say more to each other, and still miss her very much. 

Good Mother

There were moments
Before you died
When I wanted to say it all,
Pouring out my feelings
Into a pool at your feet,
Hoping you’d dip your hands deep,
Reading the rippling
Water like tea leaves
Proffered by a psychic,
Telling all the stories,
Some happy, some sad,
Some untold, some unsaid,

But you remained the strong one,
Not reaching for the soothing relief of water,
Holding feelings close
Until the time had passed for sharing,

The night you died,
I felt your spirit rise,
The ponderous weight of human musings
No longer relevant,

I knew the goodness
Of your soul
That night,

I felt the tide rush in
Carrying our unspoken words
To a distant shore
Where healing lives
And broken hearts are mended,

Farewell, God speed. 
Good mother.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poem: What've You Got? - Butler University Championship Game

I'm originally from Indiana and am a huge fan of Butler University's basketball team.  This poem is in honor of the national championship game tonight.  I hope they win.

What’ve You Got?

To the hoop,
Loop de loop,
Jump and dunk,
Fly the coop,

Take the ball
To the rim,
Rebound quick,
Then once again,

Down the floor,
Cross the line,
Pass one time,
Doin’ fine,

Clock ticks down
Ten, nine, eight,
Plant your feet,
Sealing fate,

Take the ball,
One last shot,
Will you win,
Or will you not?

It’s time to show what you have got.