Bridport & East Middlebury


We’ve already crossed a few.

From forest, 
field and barn, 
the patch of flax,
the cow, the sheep, 
the church and village store
we moved on to a place of more and more,
where water drove hard through a gorge of stones
to turn the wheels that broke the iron hills with smoke.

Everything seemed possible then,
with space beneath our roof for even more.

Now we sit in the village square.
We stare at the handbuilt barn.
We stand beside the ruins of the mills 
and take photos with our phones.
We wonder how and why
and what they’d make of us.

And are we standing in or out?
And what now can we do?
What holds us in, what keeps us back?
What must we keep, and what let go? 



When our grandson was not quite two, we brought him to a park, where we pushed him in a swing for a long time. After awhile, he wanted to stop. He just sat there in the swing, staring ahead of him, with a half-smile on his lips and a faraway expression in his eyes. I took a photo of him, like that. I keep that photo by my desk.

The Father is Silence. The absent, silent one. The Son is Word, the teaching presence within and with and beside and behind and before. The Spirit is Practice. So they say.

I take the dog into the pine woods every day. Sometimes I take her twice. I take her there in all weathers. Lately, heavy wet snow covers the path. It’s too sticky for snowshoes, so I slog through in my high heavy boots. The dog bounds. Lately, I’m watching a broken tree for signs of sheltering animals. I’m watching a hole under the roots of another tree to see if anyone is using that. So far, I have seen the tiny tracks and the tail-drag of a white-footed mouse disappear into that hole. 

A Bargain for Frances is about a little badger girl whose friend tries to trick her out of a china tea set she wants. When I was a little girl, we had a tin tea seat, turquoise and white. I will buy our granddaughter a tea set for her birthday, a china one, packed neatly into a little white basket. She already has a tea set that used to belong to her mother, but it isn’t in a basket.

There is a place on the front step that is always icy after a heavy snow. This happens because the snow piles up behind the bars that keep it from sliding off the metal roof. The weight of the snow causes it to melt underneath, like the water melts under a glacier. That melt drips onto the step, and freezes there. I keep a bucket of sand just inside the front door.

My friend Molly recently sent me a poem by Tim Jones, a poet who lives in North Carolina. I liked it so much that I looked him up and found a book of poems written by him, and I bought it. This is from his “Lent” poem: “Blessed are you, for yours/ is the lengthening of the light.” This morning, just at first light, I awoke to hear a cardinal singing in the shrub under the bedroom window.


The Watershed Center

The name you can say isn’t the real name;
the way you can go isn’t the real way.
	~The Tao Te Ching, version by Ursula K. Le Guin

What can we observe
about this creature,
in this forest?
Stop and look.
Make no assumptions.

Sometimes she walked
straight along an open path,
sometimes she zig-zagged
under low branches.
She stopped here 
by a deer trail, and here
beside a coyote’s trotting way.

She stopped
in front of this yellow birch,
and this hemlock,
and this white pine.
See how she sank her heels
into the ground.

For awhile she sat
in this clearing,
looking toward the south.
Notice the nutshell 
and the breadcrumbs.
Notice the prints beside her.
She wasn’t alone.

We can see clearly
that she wasn’t here alone.

VERMEER: The Glass of Wine

VERMEER—The Glass of Wine

A man, a woman, his hand on the jug, 
her nose in the glass, a curious smile 
on his lips. Seduction. The usual.
But the man does not look lascivious,
and the woman appears focused on the wine.

Perhaps, then, another story.
She is a prosperous businesswoman
and he an importer of wine from France. 
She inhales the bouquet.
Lemon, she says. Mignonette. 
He nods. She buys a dozen bottles.

Zuihitsu in February


Six good things about being old: It’s easier to say No. It’s easier to say Yes. The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated. . . One can recognize languages other than one’s own. One can no longer die young. Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. One unpleasant thing about being old: arthritic thumbs. 

Return to Clay Studio: The plan is to make a troll to put by the pallet covering the wet spot between the yard and the woods. The children know the stories. According to our granddaughter, every story should end with the sentence, “And then, the bees got her,” adjusted, of course, for gender and number.

The terra-cotta amaryllis was lovely. Four blossoms on two stems, just as advertised. The red one was even better: one stem with five blossoms and one with six, beyond all expectation. And last week, it made one more stem with six blossoms, smaller than the first eleven, but just as red.

Things one can do with arthritic thumbs: knit with medium needles, play the piano, make things from clay, change wax filters in hearing aids. Things one can’t do: play the harp, knit with small needles, pick up pins.

Be Gentle, says the Oracle of the Day, you’re hatching.  Hard work, hatching. That weird little egg tooth on the end of the beak. Coming out into the world all scrawny and hungry and wet, opening your orange mouth. Or if you’re a butterfly, with bent wings to pump up and stretch. So yes, gentleness is called for.

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well. And then, the bees got him.

This old woman is learning Finnish. Why not. The nouns and pronouns are not gendered. It’s as foreign as Klingon. No means “Well” and Ja means “and.” Tuo has nothing to do with “you” as it likely would in an Indo-European language. Suomi on niin vaikea kieli, mutta kaunis. I have a plastic reindeer on my desk. No niin.

February First

Thank you for my hands—the broad palms, 
the long split life-line.
Thank you for my strong arms, 
my short strong legs.
Thank you for my dark hair 
turning white instead of dull.
Thank you for the garden and the craft,
the silence, the forest, the birds,
the fields full of four-leafed clover,
the deer on the edges everywhere.

Remembering my Dad, who died 16 years ago on February 1, which the Irish counted the First Day of Spring.
He was born on October 31, the Eve of the First Day of Winter.

O Again: 7. Emmanuel

O Again


O Emmanuel (already)

O God-with-us
in NICU bassinets
and nursing homes
and truck cabs
and warehouses.

on battlefields
and bombshelters
in churches
and congress (even there).

dashing through the snow
on city sidewalks
in the bleak mid-winter.
O. That’s all. Just O.

*(cat typing. Why not here, too?)

O Again: 6. O Not

O Again

6. O Rex* (O dear)

No. Just no.
No king. 
It never works.
Even so-called good ones.
Not even a god because

nobody has ever agreed
about which, or how.
What we need 
is the desire bit.
O Desideratus.

O Desire for kindness,
O Desire for compassion,
O Desire for joy,
O Desire for peace.
O Desire. Amen.

*"King of nations and their desire."

O Again: 5. O Oriensast

O Again

O Oriens (my favorite)

Oriens. O Oriens.* 
Our Star in the East
today rises as far South
as she goes. Tomorrow
she’ll cross the line
to lengthen our days.

O Oriens, O Morning Star—
Come and enlighten.
Sun of Fiery Dawnings—
Sun of Rooting Bulbs—
Sun of Joyful openings—
O Oriens, come.

*(Just say it. It does nice things in the mouth.)