swift, then suddenly still.
an angel of death,
beautiful and terrible,
merciful and cruel
I notice the silence, the stillness fall over me before I see the flash of white wings: a barred owl. She swoops into our locust tree, watches, listens and waits.
Blue jays come looking for food, full of bravado, talking loudly to ward off their fear. But it works, breaking her concentration, and she turns her head quickly to follow their commotion. Distracted, she moves away.
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out and about
spending unhurried time with a friend.
When J.’s out of the room
I taste food she made, meant for tomorrow,
but it smells too good to wait, so I don’t… just
a spoonful or two
and it’s worth it – as good as I had imagined…
and her laugh
when she discovers what I’ve done
makes it even better.
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The morning after a fast
I feel reduced to my essence, elemental.
I feel my heart beat, my lungs expand and contract with every breath.
I feel suddenly warm.
After one last glass of water,
I start with a big bowl of oatmeal.
Everything is delicious, and it burns clean.
The fires have been stoked.
Outside it is dreamlike – hoarfrost again, but with very light snow.
In the half-light before dawn
I don’t see any flakes, but
they tickle as they melt on my face.
A dream: of a sculpture, six trumpeters riding a horse.
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Our recent snow accentuates the horizontal.
Against a dark gray sky and dark gray woods, I notice tree branches holding snow.
Vertical lines disappear into the gray.
I’m fasting for Ash Wednesday – nothing to eat or drink but water all day, and I’m feeling…
- a little light-headed – not exactly
- very hungry – yes, definitely
- clear-headed – well, maybe for a while
- clean – from the inside.
Every time I fast I am reminded how much time and energy I spend on food – thinking about eating, preparing food, eating, cleaning up, and it takes me hours just to get over the habit of thinking about it so much… and then I’m hungry anyway, so I think about it some more.
But eventually my mind rests from thoughts of food, and my body rests from digesting, too. With the voice of my hunger temporarily silenced, I can hear my other, quieter voices of survival more clearly – my heart beating, my lungs breathing, blood rushing through my ears. Then, even quieter, I can feel for signs of illness or health. Finally, I feel only quiet – clean, clear peace.
Fasting is a luxury, I know. Unlike real hunger, fasting is intentional. Unlike real hunger, fasting holds no worries about finding a next meal. But fasting is also a discipline. It is instructive. I relearn how to listen to my body, and I relearn how to respond – not with a knee-jerk reaction, but carefully, thoughtfully. And I hope in the end that from this quiet, from this listening will come a better ability to listen to others.
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Cloudy and windless, but still brighter for the fresh-fallen snow.
In the midst of all this colorlessness
a jay outside my window
beams a vibrant blue,
and cries out in glorious defiance
against all colorlessness, all timidity in the world.
He shames and inspires me…
BE COLORFUL! BE VIBRANT! BE VIVID! BE RADIANT! BE BRILLIANT! NOW!
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snow in the morning
sudden, quick and heavy
and just as suddenly done.
what did I do wrong?
an inch or two –
enough to shovel, sort of,
to patch snowmen, sort of,
and perfect for snowballs
if you don’t make too many.
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A dark, still morning,
no sound but seeds hitting hard snow as I scatter them.
An unseen deer crushes through thickets,
would-be silent but for the ice.
It’s a morning pregnant with possibilities… snow?
I gulp in deep breaths – I want to be pregnant with possibilities, too.
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heavy gray clouds all day
and a slippery, inch-thick crust of ice on the snow
thick enough to walk on without breaking through, if you’re quick about it
and occasional deeper-throated bird warbles for spring
after playing with the cats
we walk slowly into town
under a heavy sky
on hard, sad snow
past mute trees,
trying not to be irritated with the world, with each other;
then back home
as the light dims
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a slow start
dark gray clouds
o moby (also dark gray)
jumps up and curls into my lap
and i curl over him.
he nuzzles me
and i (nuzzle) him.
the closer I get
the more beautiful he is;
his affection so pure, so complete
that all I can do is answer him in kind
and lose myself.
At the same time I am listening to “fifteen minutes of grateful meditation on being alive,” Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Opus 132, the third movement. You can hear it online, too. Fast forward through the introduction, then sit back, relax, breathe slowly, deeply and listen to thankfulness, a quiet joy at being alive and ultimately, peace.
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Not so bad: warmer sun, about zero at sunrise, but later up to 20.
I stand outside on the deck for a minute uncoated and breathe deep the no-longer-too-cold air, and feel sun from a slightly upward angle across my face – still low, but at least above the horizon.
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