Last Shine on the River

mercy_shine

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

—Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

November

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

–T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

 

Becoming a Writer

“You can have talent, but if you cannot endure, if you cannot learn to work, and learn to work against your own worst tendencies and prejudices, if you cannot take the criticism of strangers, or the uncertainty, then you will not become a writer. PhD, MFA, self-taught — the only things you must have to become a writer are the stamina to continue and a wily, cagey heart in the face of extremity, failure, and success.”

–Alexander Chee
“How to Write the Autobiographical Novel”

Frost Warning

flower_jail
Flower Jail

It’s November, suddenly. There’s electricity in the air, a sense the storm is coming, wires buzzing. Maybe the feeling builds with election day tomorrow. In Oregon, we vote at home and mail-in the ballot to be counted, or save a stamp by dropping it off  in a designated box. I voted days ago. Campaigners trudge up the steep hill to knock on the door and set the dog barking while I’m trying to write. They leave garish oversize flyers wedged in the door that flutter away. It’s November, again.

A high pressure system will shove out the rain and bring nighttime temperatures down into the 20’s this week. Today I finally cut back the leggy dahlia, geranium and fuchsia foliage dangling from their pots on the deck. I cut the potted pink rose to stubble. Perhaps they will overwinter another year, if the weather is kind enough, perhaps not. I’ll cover them with old sheets against the frost and hope for the best.

Work done so many weeks ago comes full circle to fruit and seed.

I was notified that I won the 2018 Oregon Writers Colony Writing Contest in the short nonfiction category.

A fruit,

a seed,

a frost warning.

Rain Year

contorted_filbert_nut
Curling Hazel’s Nut in My Hand

It was a summer of subtraction: a thousand roots torn up, hundreds of branches cut and chipped, trees topped or felled, bone white holly wood stacked to dry for new year fire. Sammy, the dancing black cat, passed over at solstice. She, who skittered over the roof after squirrels, caught lizards, chipmunks, snakes, and grown jays to bring inside the house unharmed and release for play, grew old. Shore up fences against the winter wind and clear the gutter drains. I will keep the shoe box used to save Sammy’s prey on top the bookcase a while longer.

October starts a new count; the rain year began on the 1st. Soon after, a winter storm blew in from the northwest and took the leaves off the dogwood and shook the oaks. The fir sway and whisper together.

There is no moon tonight, it’s drained away and returned to darkness approaching the sun. A mirror, a pool, a puddle, seeking reflection, a black moon. Each month is a moon, with some added sprinkles, a seed, a struggle, fruit or frustration, an unwinding, a letting go. This new moon marks the end of all the late summer sorting. The season of weighing gold and grain after casting away the chaff is here.

Summer evenings I sat on the back porch and watched the planet Venus slip lower in the western horizon at twilight. Now she disappears from sight, fallen under the earth from the night sky, until joining the sun on October 25th. She rises as the morning star at the end of the month, a slim crescent, on All Hallows.

Crossroads and thresholds, liminal spaces we’ve arrived at or stumbled upon, another outcast stepchild in a fairy tale trying to solve the riddle of the Sphinx.

 


A note on “rain year:”

U.S.Geological Survey “water year” […] is defined as the 12-month period October 1, for any given year through September 30, of the following year.
https://water.usgs.gov/nwc/explain_data.html