Daily Prompt: The Natural World

When I arise each morning, I walk across the hall to our office where I have my electric teapot and cup, and I look out the window “to measure each day’s grace” as I wrote in At the Boundary, my recently published book of poetry. The willow tree we planted five or six years ago is now thirty feet tall and measures the wind for me. It’s the first thing I look at. And then I watch the birds to see what they are doing, whether huddled in or busy on the lawn.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve had on my newly published book is that the words I use to describe what I see in nature places the reader in the same place. If you are one of those who has purchased the book, thank you. And if you’d like to purchase it,  clicking on the title above will take you to it.

Here’s my willow – a tree I’ve always wanted to have in my yard and now I do! Here’s two shots of it: Willow Against Fence (I also love the way our weathered board fence looks) and Willow Light, which reminds me of an Impressionist painting. The willow reminds me to move slow and to measure each day’s grace in the way I interact with the world.

Willow Against Fence
Willow Against Fence
Willow Light
Willow Light






Lent and Reading and Writing

ArchesLent’s a lot like this arched stone tunnel. You don’t know for sure where it’s taking you until you get to the end and turn the corner.

Most of you know the saga of moving our big office into a little office so son could have the big office for a bedroom so I won’t go into that except to say that while Cliff and I work very well together, he’s needed more time on the PC for his online classes and I’ve needed a place to set myself apart and look out a window.

It finally occurred to me to move my quiet writing corner into the bedroom. It’s a big bedroom. And we sleep here and dress here but that’s about it except it’s also my home gym. Which I use far less than I need to and which doesn’t take up much space.

My epiphany was to bring one of the larger wooden TV trays and put it in front of a south-facing window near an electrical outlet, and here it is I’ve set up. My bedside table also works as a book stand; my laptop as both a writing tool and a research tool, thanks to wireless all through the house, and I even have room for a teacup.

Today I’m looking out on about ten inches of snow and more to come. But with ten inches of snow, it’s pretty peaceful looking out there. My place in the world is peaceful and yet I’m surrounded by family. How good is that….

I finished revising an essay for publication since I’ve been here and I created a screenplay out of a short story I’d written a couple of years ago. I just like being here. It feels like a writing corner with far fewer distractions that in the official office.

Funny how easy things are when you give up on things being the way you think they’re going to be and see how you can live with things being the way they are.


So here’s the URL again for the Lenten readings in case you missed it last time: http://cotikc.wordpress.com.

May all your days be as peaceful as an empty stone hallway, or an undisturbed drift of snow, before you make that turn into whatever is there, ahead.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

“Beyond” always has a quality of mystery to me. What is beyond there–there where I can see? What am I not seeing? And what calls me to the emptiness of places.

This photo, at first glance, is a simple one. A Kansas fence, a field, open space. Only the “open space” is history and legend. My family migrated in covered wagons across those hills into Kansas. The century-old hedge posts came later along with the barbed wire.

Perhaps it’s because my family on both sides were pioneers, and perhaps because I read too many Zane Grey novels; but I can imagine smoke on the horizon and Native Americans watching from the edge of a rise.

My great-grandfather’s mother, Lucinda Moore, had five husbands all told by the time she traveled from New Salem, N.C. to Jewell County, Kansas. The date of her arrival in Jewell County with the final husband, Moore, coincided with the year of the last Indian raid in that rolling country bordering Nebraska–Nebraska only ten miles away on the  horizon from where this photo was taken, south of Highway 36 and north of Barnes, Kansas.

Where Are the Outlaws....
Where Are the Outlaws….

Like Blood Creating — dpchallenge:Colors

Pele Dancing Fire

I’d like to enjoy the colors of autumn – the sugar maple, dripping its red leaves like the last of summer’s blood, or the bright yellow of a hickory. Soon the oak trees will turn bronze-gold as Hephaestus forges eternity. The light is a particular kind of light, thicker, more like taffy syrup.

Usually I can. Usually I glory in the colors and light, the changing scent of seasons as acorns fall and car tires crush them into the autumn perfume. This year it’s harder.

Part of my spirit is still stuck in Hawaii. I’ve been back a month now, and while life has whirled and I’m back to writing and teaching and working and preparing a poetry book for publication, the breath of me, let’s say the right side of my lung, is in Hawaii.

Of course it’s beautiful in the islands, but that’s not what calls my breath westward across the Pacific. I don’t even know if I can define what it is: fire, earth, water, air. Perhaps it’s the combination of elements that makes Hawaii Island so riveting.

I remember another fall, walking a road through freshly poured lava one full moon night. Kilauea had a ring of fire-pouring vents all along the crown and smoke obscured the black land around us. From time to time, we’d hear the crackle of a tree as it burst into flame. The Park Service at Volcano had spray painted directional arrows on the road because they knew in any season when Kilauea poured into the sea, people came to watch.

My sister, brother-in-law, and I followed the arrows to the sea. The wind off the waves fresh and clean in our lungs. A full moon spread a golden path across the water. And there, at the place where a lava tube opened onto the beach, Pele danced fire in a raw, black-red river into the waves, lifted, roiled in fire chunks, played in the sea.

And the Holy One saw creation. And it was good.


Grandparents in the Grass

Grandparents’ Iris

The question for someone who writes memoirs is, of course, “Who am I?” My answer at the moment seems to have evolved into, “I’m my grandparents.”

The wind in a willow began the whole thing: nothing soothes like a willow, in or out of a breeze, but in a breeze, it’s magic. And then too, we had a boggy stretch in the yard, maybe an underground stream, that seemed to need a water-soaking sort of plant. We planted a willow.

The next spring, or the one after, it seemed a most reasonable thing to create a flower plot along that section, beginning with circling the willow and running twenty-five feet or so beyond. My son did the heavy work, plowing up the heavy Missouri soil with the rotor tiller, adding mulch and compost, tilling again. My job is planting. I planted iris and peonies. Not just any iris and peonies, mind you, but Kansas iris and Kansas peonies.

The flowers of grandparent memories. This is how that all came about.

My cousin Howard, who looks just like Grandpa Sunderland, white beard and all, dug up some peonies at his house and gave them to me. I’d planted them in a back garden but they didn’t get enough sun to be really happy and I knew I needed to move them. It was Howard who first told me who I look like. We were out to dinner after I’d first moved to Kansas City and I said, “Howard, you’re one of the oldest cousins and we know you look like Grandpa Sunderland; who do I look like?” And he reared back in his chair, raised eyebrows and all (Howard is a very low-key person so that’s about all that happened to telegraph surprise), and he said, “Well, Grandma Sunderland, of course!” I laughed out loud. “So Grandpa and Grandma Sunderland are having dinner together,” I said.

That was the peonies part of the garden that developed around the willow. Kansas farms always had peonies. We had peonies, Grandma Sunderland had peonies, but she also grew yellow iris.

The iris part comes from years and years of smelling purple iris whenever I saw them, hoping to smell the telltale Kansas smell of grape soda. It never happened until one spring when I was up visiting a farm neighbor, Zita, and her iris bloomed all around the garage, both yellow and purple. I smelled the purple and they smelled like Grandpa Joe’s.

Grandpa Joe Ellis was my mother’s father. I remember him tending his iris and roses. I have roses, too. Grandpa had a huge backyard in Barnes, Kansas, stretching all the way back to the ditch before the railroad tracks. He also had cherry trees and peach trees and apple. And a garden. But the grape pop iris? They smelled like home. As a kid, I love that grape pop!

Zita said her iris needed to be separated anyway, so after blooming she dug up the roots and put them in plastic grocery bags for me. Bags and bags. She separated the yellow from the purple and the hybrids in yet another bag. All told I had some eight plastic bags of iris rhizomes. Stephen finished the garden tilling and I planted. Kansas iris at one end, hybrids at the other, transplanted peonies in the middle. They were all outrageously gorgeous and prolific and early. No peonies and iris for Memorial Day this year.

I cut peonies and iris, arranged them in vases around the house. More bloomed. I took some to church. And every time I walk into the backyard, I remember grandparents.

I didn’t ask enough questions of my grandparents when they were alive and I wish I had. Did you? How do you retrieve your grandparent memories?