Friday’s Quick Picks/Poem: Offerings

Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

The tenor of life may seem
to thin, reedy, misaligned,
a shriek, a gasp amid muted din,
sudden ruptures in connection
that will not relay joy. Yet here
we remain, humans among all others,

with a panopoly of settings for
mystery and mindfulness
to release a sweep of harmony.
I say Peace, my soul, be well moved
and please may peace follow
you and you and more than you.

Catalog Heaven

Image from
Image from

I positioned myself on the worn brocade sofa and propped up on a pillow a heavy book bigger than my lap. A catalog to be specific, Spiegel, Sears or JC Penney, but it seemed a cousin to a genuine book with light, satiny smooth pages and bright, orderly pictures. The words, of course, were minimal but they had to be read to get the whole story. The entire enchanting tome was greatly valued in my youth. It provided not only indulgence in wishfulness, it educated. Within its flimsy, welcoming pages were all manner of tools, entertainment devices, machines for anything from cleaning to tilling, a variety of food preparation and serving options, clothing for all ages and shapes, toys made for infancy through adulthood, objects for every home space inside and out. It took my breath away any season it arrived.

It captivated attention from the opening moments with fresh scent of paper and soft crinkly sound of pages turned, each one rife with possibilities I’d not very often, sometimes never, considered. It meant a half hour of leisure if all chores, studying, and practicing cello were done. Sometimes it was hauled out when a friend was over. We huddled over the pages. It became an opportunity to compare likes and dislikes, to offer opinions about what was useful or interesting or not, and might evolve into a guessing game as well as a conversation extender. This could go on a very long time.

“I bet you’d like these shoes, they look like you.”

“No, I need boots and these look fuzzy-warm, neat.”

“Those are just…ugly!”

“They need to be cozy for winter!”

“You can get cozy and good-looking, can’t you? But wait, which dress-up shoes do you like?”

“This pair. They’re fancy but you wouldn’t break your ankles walking.”

“Not me–the high heels right here! Look at the pretty toes, leather bows on them.”

“Let’s check out the sleds and skates and stuff.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to skate again on Currie pond and Central rink!”

“Wow, will you look at that great Radio Flyer? Ours is so banged up it steers kinda wrong.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you go crashing down City Forest hills.”

“Yeah…maybe by Thanksgiving we’ll get decent snow.”

“I hope so. We’ll all go tobogganing!”

But a few of our favorite pages were those we were sneaky about if my mother or siblings weren’t close by. The lingerie section. It was amazing to see what you wore when you grew up. Boys undergarments were so boring and silly to look at; I had two brothers so this was not news. We girls would one day get to use things that were both practical and pretty. I couldn’t imagine being that old, having those body shapes, needing to cover so much up. It was more than underwear– it was under clothing of mystery–a whole different life out there somehow. It all baffled and drew us. My older sisters seemed out of reach by then, busy managing expectations at home and school, moving through adolescence with bumps but lots of victory. But there were various intrigues– and they kept them to themselves. I was called a pest often enough with my endless questions and poking about, glimpsing their worlds. I knew very little about much except for what I could see, hear, read and imagine. Sleuthing with the aid of a Sears catalog made it easier.

That was a wonderful clarification of life–all by catalog. Everything had its purpose. The hundreds, even thousands of choices were pictured well and labeled, smartly described. Objects came with a guarantee, a warranty, meaning that if they stopped working right or fell apart you got a replacement–I loved that idea even though my father usually just fixed broken things.

The big family of models was smiling and healthy. Anything you needed could be had in those pages. Everything you wanted might be gotten for a price. In fact, you could get a lot of stuff you never even thought you wanted. That part shook me up, the sheer volume. How was it so many things were actually made somewhere before appearing on page 120 of a catalog? Where did that happen? Who came up with the ideas and created them? All those little pieces and parts, it was stupefying. I could barely envision a world that immense, the production of possessions so complicated, the workers that skilled. It was awesome to wonder about and a little disconcerting.

What was the actual need for a shiny red riding lawn mower, a big boxy television, unusual gadgets for kitchen and workshop, fancy bathroom products? A cashmere coat that cost a fortune?

Our house had plenty of unique and mundane items occupying  surfaces, shelves, cabinets and corners; it didn’t need more from what I could see. I rarely wanted for a thing, but there wasn’t much extra cash enabling me to just point to this and that and my parents would get it. Besides, my father believed in thriftiness. He never paid for what he could manage and fix, himself. He didn’t take out loans except for a house, perhaps an occasional car though I believe he paid outright for those–he had to have a car or motorbike he could tinker with. He found bargains, and used his cash; he also saved and saved. He did not take financial risks. My mother, on the other hand, was one who might study a catalog, too, at a quiet end of day. She had a natural instinct plus good eye for design and quality, and owned a few fine things rather than a surplus of cheaper stuff. But she often browsed, and said it gave her ideas for sewing or decorating as much as for gifts or replacements of worn items.

To be absorbed in a good catalog was (and still can be) respite from troubles and demands. Recently my spouse, sister, then brother have had health challenges and I’ve tried more often to take mental or physical breaks. The past two weeks my mailbox has been stuffed with all sorts of catalogs since Christmas and other holidays are coming, ready or not. I receive them from clothing and outdoor/lifestyle companies; The Smithsonian; National Geographic; the Audubon Society; World Wildlife Federation; Writer’s Digest; Heifer International; The Vermont Country Store and more. Some of these induce me to I take a break from my daily agenda.

Image from www.wishbook
Image from http://www.wishbook

It might not be the old Sears Wishbook, (first published in the 1930s), which I once wore out gawking at, long before Christmas. But there is still page after page to peruse. I find a few intriguing things: two ivory Belleek claddagh mugs, weirdly cute Black Forest mini cuckoo clocks–and what about that retro classic flashlight based on a 1919 patent? Marc would like that. And in the country goods catalog, odder ideas : family matched sets of cartoon flannel pajamas, sock monkey mugs, cheese studded with blueberries or cranberries. Well, if I could happily indulge in dairy, I might try the last though I don’t think of cheese arriving with fruit installed.

I thumb through the others quickly, if at all, and toss, recycle. Wait, haven’t I gotten this one a few times already? What possibly could be of interest again? Very little. That nostalgic childish delight can also wear thin as I pile up paper wasted in an effort to try to part money from me.


The truth is, I won’t buy many gifts via mail order though it’s enjoyable at times to linger over  peculiar and beautiful things, say, when listening to the radio or trying to not watch the news. Sometimes I purchase famously juicy pears or other treats from Harry& David; they please the giftees and us. I might order a dependable cotton sweater from Land’s End. But I tend to search locally for presents as we have a myriad of small businesses here to support, tucked away shops to explore. Though I may not buy much at all this year. It might be homemade candy, gift cards or a couple small things for this large family. I am trying to simplify traditions, save money rather than toss it about, worry less and enjoy more. Focus on what matters: people, my faith, my home, writing, creating, enjoying the fabulous outdoors. Oh, a few meals, which I help Marc whip up for gatherings.

But those days when there seemed fewer things to snare our attention or stoke covetousness–how sweet are those memories as I write. How soothing it was to do nothing on a rainy/sleety/snowy Saturday evening, stereo lulling me with a Dvorak symphony or–a couple of my father’s rare musical diversions from classical fare–a Benny Goodman tune or Rogers and Hammerstein song. Stretch out against that sofa with a fat catalog of nonsense and cheap dreams. It was an avenue of exit from our sort of life and somehow encouraged my curiosity to question the known and consider the lesser knowns. A way of creating a different emotional state, as well, one of superficial ease. I needed that as a kid–an experience without pressure to achieve; time when I didn’t have to be on guard for the predator who repeatedly tracked me down; activity that required nothing of me but releasing of cares, dreaming of nothing relevant. I found a small relief in the common world of neutral objects. But mostly, it was simple fun. Thinking of essentially nothing as well as making no notable gains acquire an attraction and value all their own when practiced. If you’ve forgotten how to waste a little time, see for yourself what’s to be discovered in your own pile of  miscellaneous–now likely holiday–catalogs. You might find yourself comfier, even content a moment, readied for a catnap.


The View from There

Photo by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

Jo looked out the kitchen window and suppressed a voluminous gasp in deference to Matthew, who was just settling into position with his New Carrington News, a steaming mug of coffee and a whole wheat bagel.

He’d grunted at her upon entering the kitchen; she’d nodded and brewed a big pot. They often reheated leftover from the previous day, but this morning required the bright aroma and rich acidity of fresh caffeine. Jo knew from the many times floorboards creaked and their mattress dipped and bounced that he’d had a “kangaroo night”, up and down, here and there and everywhere. That’s what she called it; he called it “old age purgatory.” After the third time he’d pulled on his robe, jammed an old fishing magazine from a pile he kept bedside into his pocket, holed up in the empty room across the hall. The goal was to read until he dozed off. Her hope was he’d alleviate any night demons and aggravations so the next day wouldn’t be ruined for both of them.

“What is he doing?” She muttered to herself, craning her neck to better see outside. “Seems to be cleaning up…is it worth plunging to your death, though?”

Matthew typically didn’t talk for the first hour following a bad night; the newspaper emphatically rustled. Jo topped off his favorite mug from their Alaska trip. It had a homely moose on it, but it granted him happier memories. She returned to the window. The roof-scaling neighbor was still there, his leg slung out a small window, half his torso as well. He wielded a broom with some power, scrubbing and flicking off leaves and perhaps moss, though everyone knew that moss was loath to leave shingle, wood or rock once at home. She put a finger to curling lips, shook her head. That Van Tolliver, full of surprises.

He’d been a good neighbor for twenty years, waving whenever he caught a glimpse of them, at times sharing his tools and more often, anecdotes, taking in their mail hwen they were gone–and vice versa. They’d enjoyed three or four meals together each year–grilled and easy fare, various holiday spreads. Then Francia, his wife, passed. There one day with her arms full of groceries and a chipper “hello” to Jo, then felled by a fatal stroke the next. It happened so fast the neighborhood felt she still must roam the back garden or the living room where she taught small children piano. But that was that and in time they forgot her voice and face. She had been a lovely and rather benign sort except for her enthused piano playing overwhelming the street off and on. Jo was one who liked to hear it and found it sad she would not play another note.

Van, she could see, was scrubbing away with a long push broom, an awkward and perilous endeavor. His large foot was braced on the slanted roof. It looked clean enough to Jo. People generally hired others to take care of such tasks. Van had been gone a lot, though, since Francia’s death so maybe he just wanted to tidy up his place. He’d gone to Italy, France, Spain and Greece and who knows where else. An investment consultant, he’d told them he’d been tied to a desk so long he’d forgotten how to ambulate through the world and it was high time. He’d seemed rather cheerful despite his wife being gone only six months his first time out. But then, he always was more upbeat than most.

“What were you mumbling about?” The paper was lowered enough for Matthew’s bloodshot eyes to appraise his wife.

“It’s just Van. He’s sweeping his roof off, half way out that little upstairs window..”

He furrowed his brow. “Well, sensible or not, he’ll get ‘er done.” The paper flipped back up. “Coffee could use more sugar. Please.”

She was amazed Matthew had spoken, not barked at her so she got the sugar bowl and spooned it in for him. Then Jo took her white porcelain cup, grabbed her navy sweater from the coat tree and stepped onto the covered porch. Van was so intent it was as if he was executing an important duty. He didn’t notice her across the street.

It was true Van got things done. He seemed to have a knack for fixing broken mixer and fan motors and faulty toasters (he’d fixed theirs’); painting his house despite being seventy (with his son’s help he got it done); tuning up the older cars he preferred; landscaping as needed. It seemed to Jo he’d missed his calling being a sort of gambler who made magic with people’s money. Francia was proud of him, said he’d grown up on a Kansas farm and was the first one in his family to get a college degree. She liked being the wife of someone well-positioned; she liked being a stay-at-home wife and mother. Jo couldn’t imagine it. Jo had worked for a power company for thirty-five years and only retired last year. Matthew was gone for weeks at times on field trips.

“Your husband is such a thinker, isn’t he?” Fannie had noted one of the few times they’d gone out for lunch. “That’s amazing, being a naturalist plus reading two to three books a week.”

“Yes, that high school speed reading course did the trick. He cogitates a lot, but I can’t say I know what he thinks of what he reads or much else. He’s never been a gabber, not like Van. Not like I can be at times.”

Francia smiled a faint smile, head tilted, then her eyes darted away.”He does go on, doesn’t he? You’d think a numbers nut wouldn’t carry on with words so much. Honestly.”

But Jo hadn’t meant it that way. She liked to hear his (and others’) opinions, ideas, stories. Van had a way of making things interesting even when they weren’t. He laughed deeply; it was pleasure to hear. They weren’t quite real friends, though, but sociable neighbors. It wasn’t as if they spent much time together. They didn’t confide in each other, not even when their second son. Tom, was seriously injured in the Iraq war, not even when Matthew got pneumonia and it took nearly two months to get well. They’d drop off a casserole or a get well card with flowers and go one with their own business. Who they really were remained a future topic that never came up. She found Van and Francia a curious pair: she with her lacquered fingertips, classic tastes and doting motherhood; he a bit disheveled even in good suits, his tinkering and mending, his charms more intangible, less reliant on status. Jo thought she and Van might have been good friends in another time and circumstance; they had been at ease with each other in an instant.

Van was ducking back in. Jo waited, sipping. A few moments passed and he emerged again, changing position. Jo imagined it killed his back–or would tomorrow–to reach and bend and scrub like that. She wished she could carry over a ladder, climb up to help with her own broom. She could do that if she wanted; she was strong and steady. If he’d like her company and help–wouldn’t he find that strange? Wasn’t it odd she even thought of it? She wriggled her shoulders to slough off the image just as Van raised his head and looked at her. He beckoned with a momentarily free hand. She looked back into the house. Matthew was still likely reading and then he’d take his shower, get semi-dressed and fall asleep in the easy chair as he read or watched a show.

She crossed the street, drawn into the radiance of final colors of dignified trees. She located him in a shaft of clean light.

“I know, you think I’ve lost my mind, but it needs to happen.”

She pushed her floppy grey bangs to the side, shielded her eyes from a splash of sunshine. “I do not. Okay, you could do yourself in. I have to suppose this is for a good purpose.”

“Yes, I hope so.” He leaned lightly on the broom handle. “But I can’t say what.” He lifted his eyebrows above his glasses, grinned at her as if he’d captured the proverbial canary and not letting it out.

“That so? Must be illegal or virtually impossible.”

“Some might say so. I’ve long wanted to do it, but first had to finish this chore. Drier weather helps. It looks better, right? Oak and maple leaves were matted up along here.” He pointed with his chin. “The moss has gotten ahead of things, it can’t help itself. I’m torn between wanting to leave it and thinking it must be relieved of my roof. A big job for another time. Such a primitive life form that enchants me…”

“I agree. We have it inching over the walkways again. I don’t like to step on it which Matthew says is silly, it will never give up. If there’s a torn piece, I always put it back in place and pat it down with a few encouraging words.”

Van laughed and straightened up a bit, then rested the broom on the roof. His clear eyes found hers.

“How are you, Jo? Still writing haiku?”

She took her hand away from her eyes and lost vision to the dazzling light then glanced, half-blind, back up. “You remember? Is that what you call it? I don’t know.”

“Maybe. Let me see if I can find it in the ole memory bank.” He cleared his throat.”‘Night waters shift to welcome twin flower of moon.'”

“My. That was awhile back, yours and Francia’s 40th anniversary. My silly handmade card. I can’t draw much. But if something comes to me I just give a poem a try. Not often, not for awhile, either.”

“I’ve always meant to say it really struck me. I still have it on the shelf above the dresser in our–my–room.”

She felt heat pink up her cheeks. “Oh, thanks. I’m glad you liked it.”

“Jo? Where did you get to?” Matthew called from the driveway. He appeared freshly showered but his mood hadn’t altered.

“Here, talking to Van!”

“Hey Matt! A fine morning to you!” He grabbed hold of the broom again to sweep and scrub away nature’s debris. “Keep your eyes peeled later, Jo,” he said.

And then he winked, slowly, one grey eye, magnified by the lens and focused on her, the other slipping under a shutter of flesh. Jo thought it might have been a malfunction, that flickering eyelid. It wasn’t always easy to control one’s body as age worked itself into every sinew and bone. But when she looked closer, he was smiling wide as he brushed more leaves off. He seemed good, happy.

“What the heck is he up to now?” Matthew said, a scowl arising from bleariness as she joined her husband.

“Let’s get another cup. He’s cleaning up a mess of leaves and moss.”

“He ought to hire someone. I’m going to watch my fishing show. I’m not up for much more today, Jo.”

“It’s alright, honey.”

She placed her hand against his back, not to nudge him, just to let him know she was still right behind him. She was always behind or beside him or soon to be there. It was how it was. He wasn’t sick, really, not incompetent; he was just stuck in a rut and expected her to stay there, too.

Jo climbed upstairs to the third bedroom that she used for an all-purpose area since their daughter, Maggie, had grown up to work in the Netherlands. The heavy desk was against the back wall so she could look out over the yard as she paid bills or signed various cards, wrote a few letters which she loved despite having a PC. She worked open the sluggish second drawer and searched the hanging folders. There it was: “Odd Jottings.”

Scrunched up to the desk, she thumbed through the contents. Paragraphs on napkins. Quick sketches on memo paper. Little bits of poems on index cards. She had once planned on decorating a metal index box and putting in a poem-card each week. But even as she’d thought of it she knew it wouldn’t happen, not in any deliberate way. They were just passing thoughts, dreamy visions. Why should she even keep them? Maggie didn’t even know she did such things, neither did Matthew. That is, he knew but it didn’t register as anything to remember about her. It made her impatient with herself. How often had she told herself she’d take a writing class at the community center or even the college? She read a few and felt the words warm her, then put them back into the folder and away. Then she set to work on chores. But she thought how Van liked her offering enough to keep it out in view. To recite it.

As the day came and went, she thought of many things she preferred to not think about. But after lunch and doing laundry and going through a pile of mail with Matthew; after white bean soup for dinner and cleaning up and watching a series they both liked, Matthew ascended the stairs to the spare bedroom. He carried the latest library tome about depletion of natural resources in North America. He desperately hoped to fall sleep, stay asleep all night. Jo bid him good luck and looked at reflection in the half bath mirror with bland acceptance. She brushed her hair out, then drew the living room drapes, pausing halfway to look across the street. She saw the light on in the room where Van had leaned out to brush the roof.  But not him. The street was blanched silver-white as a nearly full moon rested high above.

Jo exited through the front door. Sat on the top step. Early darkness lay softly about her. She liked being outdoors as much as Matthew used to and often still did. But to him it was first a laboratory, a universe to document and conspire with or against depending on research and objectives. Secondly it was a pleasurable environment of one sort or another. For her it was a powerful mystery she lived within. That was enough.

Up on Van’s roof something was going on. He was present now, appeared to unfold something rectangular over the window ledge, worked with it beyond the window, then he was climbing out slowly, one long leg at a time. He wasn’t a compact man. Jo stood, started to the street. He’d hurt himself, might fall and how would she help him? No one else was around except for a lone dog walker moving down the sidewalk.

Now he was patting something down and out.

She hurried across the street, into his yard. Looked up at him.

“Van,” she called in a raspy whisper, “have you lost all common sense? What are you up to?”

“Jo!” he relied with equally quiet voice. “Come on up!”

“What? I haven’t walked on roofs in a long time if ever, and what’s the point?”

“Oh my, does there always need to be a major point to make?”

He stopped talking to scan the sky above trees and other roof peaks. She looked up high, too. It was a sheer night, budding with beauty as stars took their places all over.

“How do I get up there?”

“Back door, up two stairways, last room at end of the hall.”

Jo followed his directions and in a short time was standing inside a sparsely furnished room, noted a screen on the floor. Her hands gripped the smaller window ledge; she looked out and about. There were stretchy cords strung from window to something that looked like a rug.

“Wait, what keeps you from sliding down over the edge?”

“Nice jute rug I had in the basement, it grabs hold well. I tried it out first. You see it’s also attached to the window sill with bungee cords? I got it all rigged up.”

She took his extended hand, surprisingly strong grip but so was hers. They managed to get her out through the window one part at a time. Once settled beside him, her heart about dropped to her stomach. She had to cover her eyes, removing one finger at a time.

Van appeared to be in a state bliss.

The street was limned with silver and gold emanating from two street lamps and a cool drift of moonlight. The town was trying to be at rest. A teenager’s broken down car as it shimmied by, radio blaring, and then all stilled except for the murmur of the state highway beyond and far off, a train taking its load to the next stop. Trees chimed in with a brief shuddering of leaves; Jo’s hair lifted and fell about her neck. Her two-story bungalow looked bigger than she expected– it felt so small sometimes–and pretty, she admitted. She took a long breath of night air and tasted wood and leaf, moss and old shingle, and the faint but not terrible pungency of the tall man next to her.

He spoke as if far away. “I did this once before. When we moved in. No one knew, I thought, until Francia found me and gave me a tongue lashing for being so irresponsible. I didn’t think I was, but I felt guilty, anyway, for scaring her. Then the boys tried it a couple of times–this was Scotty’s room in high school– and we all kept it mum.” He hugged one knee against his chest, but she kept both of hers laid out for increased purchase. “Anyway, it’s taken me all this time to get back up here.”

Jo didn’t feel afraid as she looked over the neighbors’ homes, through the treetops. The massive moon glimmered. “I sure see why you like it. The moon feels closer, all looks better from here.”

He turned his head to her. “Where’s Matthew?”

She pressed back alarm with hand to chest. “He’s upstairs reading, hoping to fall sleep and not wake up until morning. I hope he doesn’t come looking for me…this would be hard to explain!”

Van made a huh sound, then: “He’s welcome, too.”

But they knew he’d never be do such a thing; almost no one they knew would. They watched as sweet gum branches swayed over the house. Jo felt a little like she was on a slow ship, sitting in a crow’s nest uncertain of coordinates but finding the view excellent: land in sight, heavens within reach. The breadth and width of the inky sky caught her off guard with its majesty. Her head jerked backward and she almost lost balance. It was a lot to look at up there.

“Hey, careful,” Van said and put an arm around her back. Then removed it. “So what about your poems?”

“I had forgotten about all that until you mentioned it.”

“Now you might make more?”

“Why should I?”

“It’s good to reach beyond ourselves, discover something different. Often something better.” He blinked. “Why not? Sometimes you have to move with an intuition, a feeling, Jo. You know that. It’s not all about what you can line up in columns, sort out in assessments.”

His words floated through air that soothed, found a place in her mind. “I do know.. how did you find that a part of your world view?”

“It’s not a new thought, after all. But the past week I’ve cleaned and sorted a bunch of stuff I don’t need or want. I found myself at this window, realizing I hadn’t done much that was spontaneous for a long time. It’s easy to find excuses, isn’t it?”

Jo closed her eyes, felt a breeze move across hands, face, neck, ankles. a living touch. They sat there several minutes. The silence wasn’t strained but like moving through another time and space, half-dazzled by moonlight, the different altitude.

She sighed, content. “How’s this?” She faced him and said it a bit fast. “Time floats on long wings of night, brings eternity from deep wells of stars.”

Van leaned over to her and his nose bumped hers.”See? Just like that.” He snapped his fingers and it sparked something in the darkness.

They both felt it, a rumble of warning, then an incipient delight. It was almost like the air carried magic dust like in a movie and they breathed it in. Everything looked good and interesting; they felt good and something–maybe special or smart for a bit. They just sat there a little longer until her hipbones started to cringe and he felt a stiffening ache in his back. First she entered the window, stepping down to a chair beside it and then off. Van followed, more clumsily, with her hand on his elbow. They went downstairs; he let her out the side door.

“Van, that was wonderful and just nuts.”

“I should have done it sooner. And you’re welcome on my roof anytime, Jo, and I always suspected so.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll keep it in mind, old roof walker.”

Their laughter somersualted across the ordinary street, dove into the earth.

She crept up to the bedroom where Matthew had taken refuge. His book was open on his belly and he snored for all he was worth. She turned out the bedside lamp.

Then she went down the hallway to the space that housed her second-hand desk. She rooted around for a squat candle in the bottom drawer and lit it with matches she’d filched from somewhere she and Matthew had travelled long ago. The light flickered, then caught and filled the room with hope.

There was much more she needed to do in the days, months and years ahead. She wanted Matthew to agree and come along but if he didn’t she’d manage alright. Home would always be home. Still, life was not only resting and waiting, or boarding the right train to the correct place, it was also about just getting on and going. She had forgotten the crux of that until she sat on Van’s roof.

Jo cracked the window enough to allow the barest waft of a stony-sweet scent. Winter was coming. She felt ready for the endless rain. She pulled out a fresh piece of paper, uncapped her pen, let images and words lift her into landscapes of the moving night.

Friday’s Passing Fancies/Poem: Goodness of this World

Photo by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

Thirst fills me
with a hunger
for small exquisites
which do not rend
the hearts of humans
nor our collective body.
Let me savor any common psalm
to goodness this world has made,
follow paths of ubiquitous light,
stay the cynic for a moment of wonder
so we may wield our will to spare its virtue.


The Day After


Any inspiring, diverting or engaging words evaporate under intense distress following my country’s election results. I can barely offer this much tonight. I feel weary, confounded. Not yet utterly discouraged or disheartened. One does not abandon hope for one’s countrymen and countrywomen. Nor one’s belief in betterment of the future despite obstacles. In my homeland. My place of living and being, creating and caring, making do and making bridges, reaching for greater good.

Today I shed tears upon awakening. I walked a very long time–it is sometimes the only and even best thing I can accomplish.

I offer these two photos…. because of the beauty and the meaning found today. This is a bed and breakfast, a Greek Revival mansion built in 1911. It captures my imagination in various ways. It’s called Portland’s White House, oddly, perhaps. I have photographed this place for years, in every season from many angles, and have used it once or twice for a post on architecture and a short story.

But today seeing the United States flag hanging so quietly between pillars stopped me on the corner as it never has before.

I believe the flag flown is a rendition of a Betsy Ross flag; she made the original American flag in 1776. I wonder what she would think of all this tonight, she and George Washington and the rest.

Another day, my WordPress friends, another day. I have (we have) much to think on. But we must go on, must we not…? Don’t we have to brave our lives’ and our country’s storms, seek clarity through arduous times and beyond? Yes. In the struggles, we still can maintain comittment to an ongoing mindfulness that melds us to higher principles–and far better actions. We are many and we have to keep at it. I will not be undone, will hold fast to far greater than what can be seen.