Sunday, November 23, 2008

S is for Sea (and Sea Critters)

This week we explore the S-ence of

These pictures were all taken between Pacific Grove
and Monterey, California last year.

Waves bathe the rocks south of Monterey.

Harbor seals on protected beach below Hopkins Marine Research Station
maintained by Stanford University.

Closer view of harbor seals.
They apparently appreciate the safety of a beach
surrounded on the land side with a wire mesh fence.
They are free to come and go to the open ocean,
as their beach is completely open to the se

Those little specks on the island rock are cormorants

Smaller rock, also with cormorants.
The gull to the left of the rock gives an idea,
by comparison, of just how large cormorants are.

Another cormorant rock just beyond the edge of the cliff.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Gratitude".

Gratitude! I looked at that prompt and felt overwhelmed. How could I possibly begin to express gratitude for the great messy canvas of my life with its liberal splatters of joy? How could I possibly encompass everything from the squirrel just now flirting its tail on the redwood branch outside of my window to the memory of a child’s hand held trustingly in mine or the comfort of my true love still beside me after sixty-seven years? The good fortune to be born to the best parents in the world? To be able to take pleasure in the colorful juxtaposition of a magenta sweater thrown down on a pale green bedspread? A border of brilliant and pungent marigolds? No, I thought, I can’t list a million things nor do I want to slight even one of them. How can I rein them in?

Then I happened to glance at my calendar and realized that today, Saturday, November 22, is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John. F. Kennedy. More than a generation of Americans do not have a memory of the deep wave of grief that enveloped the nation. It was personal. It was real. (Yes, I’m still writing of “gratitude”. Bear with me!) I felt that my sorrow would never go away. We watched the funeral on our little 4 inch sometimes-operational television screen in its huge console. Thanksgiving followed, and it was a somber one. We drove up to our retreat in the redwoods of northern California. On our dashboard was the new issue of LIFE magazine with a photo portrait of the young president. I had laid on it a blossom from the last red rose blooming in our garden.

The day after Thanksgiving, I wrote the following sonnet, expressing my gratitude for those factors that helped mitigate our crippling grief:

and still we mourned. While chill November lay
upon your hill, we gathered close beside

our fires, and, as you had proclaimed a day
of thanks, gave thanks to God though you had died.

We thanked Him for Himself, and asked He lead

the sad man with the gray November face
who now must bear your load and rue the deed

that forced him to replace your summer grace.

Thanked God, that, through grief shared, our festal board

extended North to South; and that the past

sent Brahms to comfort us, and Donne to warn,
sent Whitman’s sprig of lilac; that a horde

of varicolored races sat at last

in common sorrow. And still we mourn.

The splatters of joy on my canvas outweigh those of grief a thousand fold, and included among them are those voices from the past that once brought comfort and are also a current joy and to whom I am grateful. And now, more than ever, I am grateful for our sense of unity as a people.

I hope you all enjoy a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

R is for Red Sky

Red sky at dawning
Sailors take warning.
Red skies at night
Sailors delight

(Traditional saying)

Denise Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday round 3 has progressed to R. So has the ABC Wednesday Anthology.

Last evening, as I was working at my computer, I glanced outside and my eye was caught by this streak of contrail lighted by a sun about to set. I rushed to get my camera.

Then the sky turned red enough to delight any sailor.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lost in Time

The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "stranger". This is a poem I wrote several years ago, but I have not posted it previously on this blog. I think that being a stranger to both one self and the one most loved would be the ultimate estrangement.


Should I forget my name
and yours--

and shuffle, groping, speechless
through corridors half seen,
my search will not be aimless
nor my mind quite empty.

My toothless cry
will be your forgotten name.

My blind scan of each face
will seek the features that are yours.
Deaf ears will listen for your voice.

Driving my shambling steps will be
an ache of longing,
encompassing, intense,
for an essence that is you
and for your arms that held me close
so long ago...
...or was it yesterday?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Q is for Quad

Denise Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday round 3 and the ABC Wednesday anthology have marched on to the letter Q.

My husband stands at the entrance to the inner quad of Stanford University (our alma mater) as dusk falls. Students are probably hurrying to dinner and no longer scurry across the quad from class to class. In the background is the magnificent Stanford chapel, disassembled in Italy and shipped to America stone by by stone and tile by tile. It was reassembled as part of the original campus of the university founded by Leland Stanford, the railroad magnate, and his wife, as a tribute to their son, Leland Stanford Junior, who died too young to attend a university.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Change of Heart

The Sunday Scribblings prompt is “Change.”

I am euphoric! I am walking on air! When I saw that crowd - our rainbow race of multi-colored skins - go wild with joy to greet our bright young president-elect - a change happened inside of me. Let me explain.

When I was younger I was patriotic. I felt that I lived in the best country on earth. But through years that the U.S. government pursued arrogant policies of world domination and ill-conceived wars, that feeling eroded. I no longer swelled with pride at the sight of that star-spangled flag. And I felt the loss deeply, even as I worked to change my country in the direction that I wanted it to go.

Then Tuesday night happened. And a change happened in me. It was faith in the power of the American people to restore America, one person by one, to exercise the vote, to believe in democracy.

I voted for President Obama. I don’t know if he will fulfill my hopes, whether he will be a good president or a mediocre one. What I do know is that I saw the promise of change brought about by the work and dedication of the American people. And I was proud again to be an American. For too long I have not hung the stars and stripes because it was used by those who supported the war in Iraq. As we watched the glorious celebrations around the world on Tuesday night, I said to Otto, “Where is the American flag that we always used to put up on the fourth of July? I want to fly it again.”

On Wednesday I wrote and posted on my blog a new verse to “America, the Beautiful”.
I will quote it again here as I might quote another poet to illustrate my change of heart. (This explanation is to circumvent the admonition not to use an old post). Here it is:

O beautiful for rainbow race
for multicolored skin
for outside differences of face
Americans within.
America! America!
where every voice is heard.
We pledge to heed
each anxious need
with deed and work and word.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America the Beautiful!

On this day of joyous new hope in our new president-to-be, I found myself humming "America, the Beautiful". Then gradually these words inserted themselves as a new verse:

O beautiful for rainbow race
for multicolored skin
for outside differences of face
Americans within.
America! America!
where every voice is heard.
We pledge to heed
each anxious need
with deed and work and word!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

P is for Poppies

P is the letter of the week on Denise Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday Round 3 (with Mr. Linky and commentability, if there is such a word) and ABC Wednesday Anthology.

P is for Poppies.

Poppies to be exact.

Click on photos to enlarge.

They will be appearing about January, the month that I photographed these. In my childhood and right through the 1930s whole hillsides and all the vacant lots were covered with
poppies in their first exuberant burst of bloom. Then they became few and far between, at least until the time of the great Oakland fire in 1991. In the season after the fire they covered the burnt area, the place where thousands of homes had stood, in blankets of orange. But then they almost disappeared once more, except where poppy seeds had been deliberately sown.

When I was in elementary school, back in the 1920s, we had regular music classes, and one of the songs we sang (which I may not have a completely accurate memory of) went like this:
Poppies, golden poppies, gleaming in the sun,
Closing up at evening when the day is done.
Flower of California, children of our state
Rolling from the mountains to the Golden Gate.
My son-in-law, Clinton Shock, phoned a little while ago and reminded me that P is also for President. I'm posting this on Tuesday, election day. It's surprising that I can even use my keyboard, since all of my fingers are crossed in an effort to ensure that our next President is Barack Obama!