Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poem: Precious, True

Precious, True

Summer night,

Cool breeze,
Good friends,


Food and wine,
Under the stars,

The passage of time
No barrier
To friendships woven
Long ago,


A gift of time,
A gift of place,
A timeless gift,
Precious, true,
On a summer night
So clear
The stars sparkled
In complete accord.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Poem: Wondrous Wonders

Wondrous Wonders

I have often wondered
About things that cause wonder,
That bring
Me to my knees,
Make my heart
Beat faster,
Make me pause

I do lots of wondering: 
What will I wear,
What will I eat,
Does it matter
What I do with my day?

I wonder
And ponder
The complexities
Of life,

Then I see:

A hawk in mid-flight,
Hear an owl in the night,
See a fluttering kite,
A candle’s bright light,

And I wonder
About wonders
So varied are they,

A child at play,
A stack of fresh hay,
A chocolate soufflé,
A graceful ballet,
A perfect day,

 I wonder,
I ponder,
I sigh and rejoice
In the wondrous wonders I see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You've Seen it a Hundred Times

You’ve seen it a hundred times.  Water rippling out from a center spot, forming multiple concentric circles.  Perfect symmetry.  The same every time.  You can create the ripples in a kitchen sink, a bathtub, a pond, a lake or even the ocean.  Anywhere water exists, a ripple can occur.

The same is true of humans.  You’ve seen it a hundred times.  One person does a good deed.  It ripples out from that person into multiple waves of positive energy.  A perfect symmetry of goodness flowing from one person to another.  You can create the ripples in your home, at work, at church, in a store, at the park or even through silent meditation.  Anywhere people exist, a ripple can occur. 

We are capable of sending out this kind of goodness every single day.  We can’t always see the ripples we create but should never doubt their existence.  A perfect symmetry of goodness changes the planet one person at a time. 

Random Conversation

Random conversation at grocery store between myself and a young 20 something male cashier.

Me:    How's you day going?
Him:   Not so great.
Me:    I'm sorry to hear that.

He continues to ring up my items and bag them while I observe his young, troubled face.  He looks like he might have been crying earlier.  This breaks my heart. 

As I'm signing my credit slip I say to him:

Me:     Is there any chance of your day improving later?
Him:   Maybe when my paycheck hits my bank account at midnight.
Me:    Hang in there.  I hope tomorrow's a better day for you.

He gives me a sad look that speaks volumes.

I exit the grocery.  Put bags in car.  Worry briefly about the young man and what his troubles might be.  I might have asked him if there hadn't been other people behind me in line.  I hope he's okay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Isn't it Curious?

Curiosity may kill a cat, but for humans it is potentially our most important trait.  Our curiosity leads us to study the smallest organisms and the largest solar systems.  It drives our attempts to discover the origins of life and discern the complexities of the human brain.  Because of our curiosity, we ask important questions, look for answers and change the world with our findings. 

What makes us human, gives us purpose, drives our pursuits, our motivations, our spirituality, and our hopefulness?  If we find the answers, we may be onto something big and wouldn't that be great?

Once we lose our curiosity, we have lost the essence of who we are.  If we continue asking questions, we will be healthier and happier.  And who knows, the pursuit of the answers may just be the answer we are seeking.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Short Story: The Magic of Mozart

For optimal experience, play music while reading

The Magic of Mozart

The brownstone in Brooklyn housed four floors with two apartments on each level.  Residents were afforded no elevator, just long flights of empty stairs lined by closed doors.  It was a rarity to see another resident, but it was quite common to hear one.  Noise traveled with ease from floor to floor, flowing through windows and walls and seeping into the sleep and dreams of weary New Yorkers.  Escaping noise was an impossible wish in the city that never sleeps.  Sirens, horns, domestic squabbles, children fussing, moving cars and ice cream trucks created a constant ambient noise.  If you happened to live in a building with a musician then prayers were proffered for one with a classical bent and a taste for calming composition. 

Joan Lazlow lived on the 3rd floor.  She was 35 years old, single, creative, resilient and a tad lonely, much like every other New Yorker.  As a way to survive, she waitressed, but her main passion was writing.  She was working on her first novel and had given herself a six month deadline to finish the first draft.  She worked at an antique desk that had been retrofitted to house her computer and printer.  Her chair swiveled and rocked on its sturdy springs.  The warm oak and leather cushion cradled her as she worked.  Joan had created the perfect writer’s den.  Plants lined shelves below the front windows.  Birdf eeders were suctioned outside of the window panes.  Comfy chairs, plush cushions, wooden tables, quilted wall hangings and braided rugs (all thrift shop purchases) brought warmth to the main room of the house.  

Josh Dumal fell in love with the brownstone on first sight and knew his grand piano could be hoisted through the front windows without any major upheaval to the building or his piano.  It was his first concern when he considered a move.  If the piano was okay he knew that everything else would fall into place.  And so it was that Josh moved into 249 St. James Boulevard, Apartment 2B one sunny Tuesday.  By that evening, his tuner had arrived and declared his grand to be in grand condition once again. At midnight he commenced to play.

Joan awoke to the sounds of Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 21 – Andante.  It was dreamlike, ethereal, full of pain and longing.  She arose from her bed, fixed some tea and sat on her couch absorbing the stirring melody.  Her slight annoyance at being awakened soon shifted to quiet joy.  She found herself moving as if transfixed toward her computer.  She began writing with a fervor and intensity she had not experienced in recent days.  The words flowed like water cascading through rapids.  Ideas emerged without effort.  

At 2:00 a.m. Josh retired and Joan ceased her work.  And so the pattern continued night after night.  As Joan wove her novel’s intricate tale, Josh played notes of intricate beauty.  The symbiosis of their work was magical.

One Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. to be precise, Joan awoke longing for a steaming latte from Choice, a coffee shop up the street.  She threw on some sweat pants, pulled her hair back from her face and stepped out onto the busy sidewalk.  The wind was swirling and clouds were threatening rain as she bustled down the street. 

The line outside Choice was long, so she picked up the Times and began reading the headlines.  She loved the arts section and was intrigued by the story of a rising young artist who had performed at Lincoln Center the previous night.  The critic wrote that Josh Dumal’s breathtaking performance had left the audience in raptures.  Three standing ovations resonated in the building long after the lights were dimmed.  Someday, Joan thought, I will have enough money to go to the Lincoln Center whenever I want.

Just then, the man in front of her dropped his newspaper and the contents of a manila folder he had been carrying.  Papers flew everywhere and she did her best to help him chase them down.  She snatched a flying page and pulled it close as she looked for more errant papers.  She happened to look down and realized it was sheet music for Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 – Andante.  Could it be?

She handed the music to the man and smiled.  She said, “I live at 249 St. James Boulevard Apt 3 B.  We haven’t met, but I think we might be neighbors.  I’m Joan Lazlow.  Can I buy you a cup of coffee?  I feel like I owe you a great debt.  I may even dedicate my book to you.  Let’s sit down and I’ll explain.”

Josh smiled back and said, “It’s the least I can do after you valiantly saved my sheet music.  I had my first concert in New York last night and that music is meaningful to me.  I live in apartment 2 B.  Let's grab that table in the corner?” 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Poem: This and That

This and That

I’d rather not text,
Or tweet,
Or e-mail,
Facebook is not for me,

Are we,

Too busy to talk,
Or just take a walk,

A long, idle chat,
About this and that,
Is truly the best,
Above all the rest,

Sitting with you,
Sharing a meal,
Sipping some tea,
Playing a game,

Scrabble perhaps,

Filling the board,
With long, idle words,
About this and that,
Is truly the best,
Above all the rest,

We just need to meet,
Sometime next week,
Come by;
 We’ll have a long chat,
About this and that.

I'll send you a text,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Poem: Baiting a Hook

Baiting a Hook

I think that I will write a book
About the way you bait a hook.

You need a worm,
You need a hook,
But most of all
You need to look
Before you stick one
On the hook;

It’s not so easy,
Read the book.

Illustration by Philip Bourland

Monday, June 13, 2011

Remembering "Maggie May"

Remembering "Maggie May"

In 1971, I was 18 years old and beginning my freshman year at Indiana University.  “Maggie May”, written and sung by Rod Stewart, was released that same year.  Stewart had written the song about a real life relationship he had been in with an older woman.  All I knew is that the song touched me at some very basic level and spoke to my feelings.    I was leaving home for the very first time and was dealing with confusion, insecurities, excitement, trepidation and the hopefulness that is unique to a certain stage in one’s life.  I was happy and sad and longing for some unnameable thing – maybe it was love, or maybe just the idea of love.

Now forty years later, the song still gets to me.  All I need are the first few notes and I’m right back in my dormitory at Indiana or walking the quad with my friends.  I’m listening to good music and living in the moment. 

I wouldn’t want to be 18 again, but I sure like dropping in for a visit.  Thanks to Rod Stewart I can do that anytime I hear this song.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poem: Fresh Feast

Fresh Feast

The bounties of summer are here,
Buy sweet tender corn by the ear,

Carrots as bright as the afternoon sun,
Juicy red grapes – second to none,

Lettuce as crisp and moist as the dew,
Spinach so green it beckons to you,

Cucumbers, onions, radishes too,
Red peppers, beets to name just a few,

Green beans grown tall in the heat of the day,
Pumpkin vines swirling every which way,

Tomatoes and apples, red as can be,
Eat a ripe peach right from the tree,

Fix a grand feast from the bounties you see,
They’re growing for you and growing for me,

We're ever so lucky
Don't you agree?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poem: Bittersweet


With a tinge of regret
The moments pass,

A mixture
Of bitter and sweet,
A taste

Life is a package
Some moments,
To be forgotten,
Others longing
To be recalled,

Erase the bitter,
Ease the regret,
With a divine taste
Neither bitter nor sweet,

Just complete,

Full of the wholeness
Of life.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rise Above the Darkness

I have some unfortunate news to share.  There are people in the world who just aren’t very nice.  I know.  It’s surprising, isn’t it?  And here I thought if you tried to treat others the way you wished to be treated then everything would work out.  Sad to say, it’s just not true.  It doesn’t mean you should change the way you live.  No, if anything it means you should go forth with more vigor, living a life of goodness and truth, trying to do the right thing, admitting mistakes when necessary, righting wrongs when possible and living with integrity.  

As for the people who behave badly, we can do a couple of things.  First we can feel some empathy.  Their bad behavior may be a result of a dysfunctional family or a mental health issue.  But we also cannot discount the possibility that they choose to behave badly because it gives them the upper hand in their relationships.  This particular kind of person is possibly the most dangerous.  They can do enormous harm to those around them.  Because they have honed this personality trait to perfection, they often feel little remorse for their actions. They also do not feel the twinge of moral angst that alerts the rest of us when we are skewing out of line.  Beware of this kind of person.  They will use you, abuse you and discard you.  

Now for the important part.  Never let this kind of person take away your identity, your inner strength or make you believe you are not worthy.  No one should be allowed to do that.  You are a person of worth who is here on this earth to do good work and share your gifts.  Do not be impeded in your purpose.  Believe in yourself.  If necessary take a detour around the difficulties you face and find a path that leads you in a new direction.  

Stay true to yourself.  By sharing your gifts, you are brightening the world.  The best way to rise above darkness is to shine your own light.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Poem: A Path in the Park

West Virginia - January 2007

 A Path in the Park

The beauty of a path 
is its sheer presence -
it can be traversed
in endless ways,
at any time of the day,
alone or with friends,
with a dog by your side,
or a child’s hand nestled in yours.

You can walk in the moonlight,
the sunlight,
or the early dawn,
you can bike, trike,
rollerblade, skateboard,
run, walk, stroll, amble,
shuffle, skip or hop
from start to finish.

 You are free on a path
to think, to muse, to ponder,
to consider what is possible,
what is powerful, what is pure,
what is good and true
in this world
we all call home.

May your walk bring you
a brief respite from your busy day,
and may you find renewed energy
to continue the good work
you do in the world.

A path can take you
to that place.