Showing posts with label Our Yard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Our Yard. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Sunday, June 10, 2007

My Yard, Three Views. View #3

Buddha (L) and Sweet Pea (R) on the swinging bench where Allen and I have our coffee in the mornings and look out over my flower garden.

Dogs. My parents and brothers had an unexplained disgust for dogs. They never had one, and whenever they saw one they grimaced and said unpleasant things. So I grew up at a distance from these animals, distrusting and fearing them. Allen and I got Buddha in 2005. Allen loves Boston Terriers, he'd had one when he was child. I was content to sit back and watch Allen and Buddha bond, not wanting to get that close. I didn't know how to act around a dog, how to approach a dog, play with a dog. When Sweet Pea came to us in May I had no intentions of things turning out any differently. I grew up with cats, and I love their independence. Allen says I have the temperament of cat: private, possessive, solitary. But when Allen had to go away for a week and I was left to tend Buddha and Sweet Pea, something happened. Sweet Pea bonded with me. She follows me everywhere and cries when I leave. She wants to sit at my feet, lie with me when I rest. This situation has caused me to think deeply about bonding and communication. I love quiet and I love being alone. Sweet Pea's demands on me have caused me to readjust my thinking. When I'm away from her, I find myself thinking about her and looking forward to our reunion. I think wistfully of her face, the black patch over one eye, white patch over the other, how her cheeks puff with air. I think of her pink belly, which is so soft and makes me think of a human baby.

My Yard, Three Views. View #2

My cats and crows altar.
My buzzard skull that Allen found and decorated for me.
I collect bones. One of my prizes is a buzzard skull which Allen found and decorated for me. I love the flesh-eating birds, particularly buzzards and crows. I have a little altar to cats and crows in my garden. Allen carved the stone and the crows are just cheap plastic decoys. I can't remember when I first was awakened to the beauty of these glorious birds. Each spring I eagerly look forward to the return of the buzzards. Here on our place Allen and I enjoy watching them circling the sky. The are so graceful in the air. Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes of the transformative powers of the death birds. I just know that when I hear crows my senses become sharper and I feel transported to a different reality. The raptor birds open my imagination.

My Yard, Three Views. View #1

The poppies I planted over my cats' graves.
I've always thought of this part of the poppy as being tough and durable, like bone.

Sylvia Plath wrote two poems about poppies, likening their blooms to mouths. "Poppies in July" is a terrifying poem in which she contemplates suicide:

Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker. I cannot touch you
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.

And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth

A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!

She then goes on to compare the flames of the poppies to the "fumes" she cannot touch: it's impossible not to think of how she died, by gas. I've often thought of the sad implications of that death, that she killed herself with a gas stove, a symbol of women's domesticity. It's widely believed she felt trapped in that life.

"Poppies in October" is a more hopeful poem. She writes of the blooms as "A gift, a love gift / Utterly unasked for / By a sky". Then, "O my God, what am I / That these late mouths should cry open / In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers." Her sense of awe here is so moving to me. It is as though she captures the soul crying out for love.

I took some photos of my poppies this year. Their blooms are so brief that, busy with other things--I often miss seeing them in all their glory.

As much as I love the blooms, I think I love them even more when the bloom sheds and the stem and seedpod stand in the garden. If the blooms are mouths, then, to me, the stems and seedpods are bones. I planted poppies in two places in my garden. The most prodigious poppies grow over the graves of my cats. The roots of the poppies feed on the bones of those cats, and I love these poppies the best.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Openly, yes

I saw a hummingbird drinking from this lily.

Today I spent the morning working in the flower garden. I was rewarded by seeing a snake and a hummingbird. The snake went to rest in the shade of the sedum. The hummingbird drank from a lily. A great crack sounded. The dogs barked. The top of a tree fell to the ground.

Black Earth

Openly, yes,
with the naturalness
of the hippopotamus or the alligator
when it climbs out on the bank to experience the

sun, I do these
things which I do, which please
no one but myself. ...

--Marianne Moore

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reading, Researching, and Pulling Weeds

Sweet Pea glances up at me this afternoon as I write my blog entry.
The nest I found on the ground as I was pulling weeds in my flower garden this morning. Finding the nest made me think of Lorine Niedecker's life and poems.

I'm sitting at my computer after a morning of pulling weeds in my flower garden. Sweet Pea is in her basket at my feet. She's been romping with Buddha all morning, and she's very content to be still. Soon, she'll be sleeping.

The flower garden was far gone. It's a simple garden of hardy perennials, which explains why there was anything in the garden left worth saving. It'd been neglected for two years: 2005 because of the Ohio River float and 2006 because of some family health issues. Allen and I have a swinging bench overlooking the garden. We sit and have our coffee there most days.
I've been embarrassed to look out over the garden. Its sorry state makes me feel neglectful and inept. So this morning, I finally went out there and started hoeing and pulling. Yesterday was cool and beautiful: why didn't I do it yesterday? Today, heat is churning up from Texas (I'd been warned about this by the weatherman yesterday) and it wasn't long before I was sweating, although I was doing the work during the cool of the day and while the garden was in shade.

Most of the weeds were easy to pull. There's a kind of sticky weed that gets all over everything that put hitchers all over my pants, some thistle, field daisies.

I got a start when I yanked a canopy of brush and weeds and saw a beautiful little bird's nest. What kind of bird builds its nest on the ground--does anybody out there know?
This is how it works for me: my mind gets in a groove, a rut. It's the kind of mindset that says that weeds are bad and I'm a lazy woman. Then something seemingly small leads me to epiphany. It happened during a walk in Southern Ohio a few years ago. I was hot and my hip ached. I sat on a cool rock to rest and noticed tiny sedum growing on the rock's surface. Touching the sedum gave me strength and made me feel connected to life.
This morning, I gasped when I saw the nest, and then I felt my whole body relax. Although, I felt like an intruder on something intimate and sacred, I felt awakened and alive to that intimacy, to that sacredness.

The experience made me think of some reading and research I'd been doing last night. I'd been reading about Lorine Niedecker. I'll be teaching her work in the class on Modern Poetry in the fall. Anyone who has ever studied Modern Poetry knows it's dominated by men, very powerful men: Pound, Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Jeffers, Wallace Stevens and the likes of them. (These men are worthy of study!)
There are a few women whose names everyone knows, like Moore and Millay. Anthologies sometimes boast of adding more women poets to the mix, but women are still not well represented in any anthology. (I read that Hugh Kenner, a scholar in the field who was hard of hearing, and a critic I greatly admire, used to turn off his hearing aid when women complained that he neglected women writers.)
Unlike Moore and Millay, Lorine Niedecker is not well known and her work is seldom read. She lived a solitary life in Wisconsin, in a rustic cabin that often flooded. In one of her poems she wrote about how little possessions meant to her, saying that she was willing to give her things to the flood. She wrote about things she saw every day, short poems of great beauty and power. She had an affair with Louis Zukofsky whose poetry is better known than hers and whom--if you can believe what you read--she never really got over.
I've read Zukofsky's work and--on a personal level--much prefer Niedecker's.
She did editing work for a time, but when her eyesight became poor, she made a living scrubbing hospital floors. The people who lived near Lorine Niedecker didn't even know until after her death that she was a poet. She thought if they knew, they'd hold her at a distance and hide all the aspects of themselves that she loved observing.

This is one of my--so far--favorite poems of hers:


You are the man
You are my other country
and I find it hard going
You are the prickly pear
You are the sudden violent storm
the torrent to raise the river
to float the wounded doe


I don't know that I'd have the courage to live as she did, geographically and socially isolated, without amenities that make life so easy and nice. But when I found the bird's nest, I felt Niedecker's wilderness in an instant. I saw that nature is my other country.
And I thought of Lorine Niedecker, living alone, writing of the things I ignore on a daily basis, writing of the great sacred things I miss because my mind is in a groove, on a selfish and boring plane.

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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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Fave Painting: Eden

Fave Painting:  Eden

Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
by Albrecht Dürer

From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

My Original Artwork: Triptych

My Original Artwork:  Triptych



Little Deer

Little Deer



Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking Forward, Looking Back