A Poem Published

Here’s a pretty cool email that landed in my inbox today:

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Plum Tree Tavern.  As is traditional at the joint, I have selected my favorite pieces posted over the past year in a special volume.  Entitled simply,  Selections Plum Tree Tavern Volume Five, the poems and photographs are collected at  this location  https://selectionsplumtreefive.blogspot.com/  A link to the work can also be found under the “Plum Blossoms” section in the right hand column of the Plum Tree Tavern home site.

One of my poems was selected. And that’s pretty cool. “Land Inventory” a poem about the family farm. Click on the link and scroll through the journal. There are some really good pieces and nice visuals. If you click the above link and scroll down to Sunderland, you’ll find ‘Land Inventory’ a poem about the family farm. Or you can just read it below. But take some time to check out the journal, too.

Land Inventory

by Janet Sunderland

The county appraiser sent a questionnaire
and a topography map, wants me to update
our family farm value, asks about changes
to acreage or productive capability of the land.

Ignore the appraiser’s flat gray map, see,
instead, the sapphire sky, white-striped
like zebras in Grandpa’s National Geographic.
Airplanes flying high to Africa or China maybe.

Walk the field of milo – stacked red heads
flaming on emerald stalks. With one swift swing
of the machete, sever a sunflower’s head,
wipe sticky black resin from the blade –

The map won’t show Great Simba, now rotted
to a termite’s meal, won’t capture hazy afternoons
we picked gooseberries, or our clamber up
the peeling bark to ride a gray husk to India.

Legends lie hidden in the appraiser’s map—stories
held by the wind, borne by cottonwood seeds, flung
free, as we were all flung free. Memory our property.
I sign the questionnaire; affirm no changes to the land.

Covid Amid the Planets

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I’ve followed astrology for many many years, at least thirty I guess. When I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, some twenty-plus years ago, I was already watching the skies and watching the impact various conjunctions or placements had on my life and on the climate. My home was a small two room adobe in Seton Village out in the desert southeast a bit from the city. The stone paved patio was larger than the square footage of the house and surrounded by a low adobe wall. One afternoon, driving home from town, I passed a garage sale and stopped to buy a round glass-topped table and chairs and put them on the patio so I could sit and watch the sky.

But my watching sky began much earlier on the farm in Kansas. Summer nights, we’d take bedrolls outside to sleep as it was cooler than sleeping in our upstairs bedrooms. In Kansas, there’s a lot of sky and I learned the constellations and the planets and watched for falling stars streaking through the night.

And so, it’s probably not surprising I also follow astrology. The ancient Babylonians and Syrians did too, as well as many peoples. The Native Americans learned to watch the sky for their weather reports.

Most people can agree to the pull the Moon makes on our planet. When a Full Moon arrives, most are cognizant of more erratic behavior/dreams. When technology goes wonky, people are apt to say, “Is Mercury retrograde?” Most know the words but not the science.  With Copernicus’s Heliocentric Astronomy, published in 1543, the moon ceased to be a planet because its orbit was centered on the Earth, not the Sun. The Moon became Earth’s ‘”satelles,” meaning servant, from which our word satellite derives.  What’s interesting is a recent post from NASA titled, “Is the Moon a Planet, Too?” The article explains how our Moon functions like a planet.

But back to Astrology. Twenty years ago, astrologers began writing of the planetary combinations that would arrive in 2020/2021 and warning of both Earth changes and massive challenges. Well. It’s 2020 and we are in the midst of both.

A recent post by one of the astrologers I follow, Anne Ortlee, wrote: “For years, astrologers have been talking about 2020 and 2021. Now I’m asking clients to think back to November 1982 through spring 1983, late 1990 through early 1991, the year 2000, and December 2007 through January 2008. Now squish all those energies together, and you’ll have some sense of the big, big cycle starting now.”

For me, 1982-83 are the years in New York when I was working as a professional actor. After going to Old Mexico to make a movie, I stayed there for four years before moving to Washington D.C. In 1990 – 1991, I was in D.C. but getting ready to move to Hawaii; after Hawaii, I moved to Santa Fe where I met my husband, Cliff, in about 1994 and was ordained a priest. In 2000, I moved back to Kansas, and late 2007 into 2008, I wrote my first book and was querying agents (unsuccessfully, I might add…that book was a warm up, I expect.)

What that all comes down to for me is the years trying to find a profession that used my talents, ended up with me becoming a priest, an energy healer, and a writer – which pretty much uses all the skills I began working on years ago, (if you don’t think being a Priest isn’t being an “actor” just watch one sometime), and I’m about to have a memoir published.

You might want to check those dates yourself and see what you learn.

Currently, there are many outer planet combinations, For example, Sun and Moon connecting to Chiron, the Wounded Healer while Jupiter (excess) and Pluto (death and transformation) are conjunct, and with Mars (the warrior and fire…think fever) conjunct Saturn (structure) while Mercury (fast moving thinking) conjuncts Neptune (water and fog, truth vs lies).

That’s a lot to consider but perhaps you can see some correlations.

There’s some fascinating information about Babylonian astrologers online if you’re curious, as well as the Assyrians. Most of them have words related to a Great Flood (think biblical Noah) as well as constellations that pointed to a healer/teacher coming several centuries in the future.

And some say astrology is a fake science. Interesting.




Walking the Long Journey

I watched Andrea Bocelli live, singing from the Milan Cathedral. I cried through it. And sent out what prayers I could to succor this world in its grief.

My far flung family is well: one son and his wife live in Florida; one son here in Kansas City; my grandson, an emergency room nurse in San Diego, has just been deployed to New York City. One sister lives in New Mexico, two sisters and my brother live in Hawaii, youngest sister lives in Oregon. We have a family of healers. I do not need to mourn my family, but I mourn this world.

We are all elders in one age bracket or another. My youngest sister just turned 60, my oldest nearing 80. And so by grace or good genes or something, we are all well.

But I mourn this world. There is so much grief circling the globe.

Does the Earth, living body that it is, need to shrug from time to time and wake us all up? We forget how precious life is, sometimes. The Texas bluebonnets, erupting in a blaze of blue in my front garden only three weeks ago have spent themselves. They only bloom every two years, so I won’t see them again until 2022. That seems a long time in coming.

All life is so transient, and yes, we know that, but we forget to embrace each day. We forget to check in with one another.

And so, I am checking in with you, my online family with hopes for your health and with reminders that as we walk this strange journey, we both walk it alone and with others. So choose your path, stick to the sunny side. That’s where you’ll find the bluebonnets along with left over last year’s leaves.


I’ve had enough worry about Covid 19. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to go dashing out into the world willy-nilly, rather I’m in touch with friends whom I haven’t talked to in a long time. Mostly friends overseas.

Way overseas, in some cases. Last night, I had an hour long video chat on Facebook with a friend I haven’t seen in more than twenty years. It’s not like we live a few blocks away, or even a continent away. She lives in Australia, I live in Kansas City. But through the magic of virtual travel, we each curled up in our respective corners and chatted.

When the memoir comes out, you’ll learn more about her. Marion de Nice. She came to Kalani Honua, a retreat center on Hawaii Island down near Volcano, where many had gathered for a few months of spiritual renewal. Marion was about three months pregnant when she arrived and even more when she left a few months later. Last night, she told me that this boy, who now plays football, sits down on the ground and meditates when no one passes the ball to him. I laughed out loud. But then, it makes sense as we were all doing enormous amounts of meditating and spiritual healing at Kalani.

I also called my Aunt Donna whom I hadn’t talked to in way too long. She lives not as far – about sixty miles away, across the state line in Topeka, Kansas. We talked for a long time, too, and I caught up on all the news of the Sunderland Clan. Remarkably, all the elders are still alive although I think my oldest cousin Darrell, still on the farm, is past 90. I also talked to my cousin Linn Sunderland whom I hadn’t seen in too long a time. He’s sort of the family-tree keeper. He is also, with his wife Pat, involved with others who are restoring the old school where we all went to High School and which has set empty for years and years except for class reunions. The plan is to turn all the classrooms along the west side into hydroponic gardens and sell the produce to area markets. The gym, which is where reunions are always held, is in good shape and any money made from garden sales will go to fix up the school kitchen so they can rent out the gym for weddings or other family gatherings.

Summerfield High School will live again.

I, or rather we, meaning my son and I, cleaned up our nearly half-acre backyard and removed winter debris. I feed birds and squirrels but other that walking across the yard to the feeder, the backyard suffered from my absence over fall and winter. I trimmed the rose bushes while Steve used the blower to collect the leaves in one corner of the fence where I compost them. Iris are beginning to stick their leaves above ground. I have purple iris, the old fashioned kind that smell like grape pop. The kind my grandpa used to grow, but I got these roots from a farm friend up near our farm. She gave me several bags full, so grape pop iris are scattered around the edges of the backyard slat fence. Naked Ladies have also sent up their leaves.

If you’ve never heard of Naked Ladies (as in flowers, please bring your mind back to the topic) they grow a lot of leaves which then die back and these long slender stems shoot up with bright and large pink flowers. Hence, Naked ladies since they have no sheltering leaves, only a long stem. But gorgeous.

Most of all, I stay home. Cliff does the shopping because he doesn’t want me out. Well, he mostly does the shopping anyway, and sometimes lets me go with him. He also does the laundry and much of the cooking. I am a spoiled wife. And very grateful to my mother-in-law who taught him.

Since the memoir is at the publishers, I had to go digging through all the bits and pieces of essays and poems I’ve written over the years and start looking for a home for them – they are tired of my very crowded folders. Here’s one of them.

         Inching into Spring 

Spring rain tagged heels of hail

throbbing across our house roof.

I woke, came to sit at my window,

brew tea, watch the show.

But it stopped.

And I sit in gray silk light

waiting for a daybreak long past

that will not come today.

The willow’s branches, softened

into leaf by three days of sun,

frames its new green lace

in a purple budding tree.

For three days spring leapt toward Easter,

until now, exhausted from the effort,

since rebirth is never easy, it rests.

This side of the window, I refill my cup.

Day Something or the Other

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Each day I need to look at my phone to see what day it is. Today is Monday. Our wise city mayor has instituted a shelter in place order (which I tend to do most days, anyway) and for the most part, that’s what Kansas City is doing. We are allowed to go for walks outside as long as we keep “social distance.” The street in front of our house has people walking by from time to time — I know that because my desk faces a window to the street. My rear office window, where I sit to journal each morning while I drink tea, faces the backyard. I must admit, the backyard is more interesting. There the squirrels dash around the yard and up through the trees in the most amazing feats of bravery and balance, and bright red cardinals come to the bird feeder which I fill each day.

The front window shows me couples, some pushing a baby in a carriage although I don’t think they call them carriages anymore. (Strollers, that’s what they’re called! Just remembered.) But whatever baby seats are called, there they are. During normal times, whatever passes for normal, I rarely see anyone outside walking. But now they are as we live on a side street with very little traffic. Earlier, I watched a boy on a skateboard dashing along, followed by a woman whom I presume was his mother, on a larger one. Amazingly, she was reading and texting on her phone as she skated along. She did slip off, once, right in front of our house as I was expecting her to all along. Hopefully it wasn’t my condemnation of anyone skateboarding while reading a phone that propelled itself through the window to make her fall. Actually, she didn’t really fall completely, at which I was quite amazed, but did manage to tip the board enough that one wheel came off. Her son came back to rescue both her and the skateboard and replace one of the wheels that had come off. While pretty nimble, she wasn’t as nimble as the squirrels.

I’m getting used to the new and different WordPress. Mostly, I just start typing. Sometimes, as you’ve noticed, I find a photo to insert, but since we’re all at home, and the television on all the time, there’s not a lot to see unless I take a photo of the backyard trees, now beginning to bloom.

But now, I’m going to go work out in my makeshift gym in our bedroom. And probably listen to more news. It’s addictive.

All of you, my friends online, stay safe.