Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gathering White Stuff And Confidence Too

The snow continues to mound here at the Alaska-Canadian border having gathered to the rather impressive depth of 200 + inches and up until today, it's all powder. The willow, scrub maple and alder are heavily buried. Deep holes and treacherous trenches beneath fallen trees are completely filled in. With the temperature beginning to climb towards 30° the snow pack will turn to pristine white cement everywhere, the kind that vanishes somewhere around the first of June. Until then, the going's going to be great.

I've been thinking today about my mother and a very dear friend who died two days ago. The two were similar personalities; strong, resourceful, quasi-adventurous, extremely smart. Both were fine conversationalists who read everything.

Thursa Revenaugh, Mom, learned to create happiness with what she had. If that fell shy she'd make the necessary changes, either in circumstance or attitude, so that life felt right. It didn't take a lot. She fed herself with the simplest things; tap dance shoes at 65, all the doors and windows open wide with Hoagy Carmichael tuned up. She encouraged the Morning Glories to climb above the neighbor's cement wall, the new wall, built higher than the sunset. Every sunrise she'd read, sip her coffee and count the number of humming birds that visited her side of the concrete. Though her keen intelligence clouded with death pending, she chose to celebrate, Valentine's chocolate smeared on her lips and chin. She was a tough, resourceful cookie.

The years shared with Jane were our early parenting years, the seasons we watched our kids becoming people. She and her toddler Seth were an active part of everything we did as a family; birthday adventures, skinny-dipping expeditions, going to the public pool for swimming lessons, ice cream parties at Porcupine Pete's, a whole gold pan full of different flavors and ten spoons. We shared a deep love for reading aloud to our kids and Jane enthusiastically critiqued all of Micah's first manuscripts.
Jane left Alaska long ago and I don't know enough of what came down through the years but she died earlier this week from pneumonia via heavy smoking and chronic depression; soul sickness, the contemporary variety, the kind that seeps into one's deepest holes, filling the lungs, blood and bones then turns to cement. I hope there was some secret delight to see her out, some glad memory, sweet like chocolate.

I'm taking them both snowshoeing with me tomorrow, fond memories combined with the happy tramping of four dogs, (our two and Merrick and Joe's pups, grand-kids with tails).  We're looking for individual snow flakes, winter's four leaf clover. That and a confidence boost over the wall. When we get back, there's a roof or two to shovel. Winter builds confidence just staying out from under.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's ...the night

How could she possibly find the energy she once knew when each and every night began and ended the same way? Oh sure, there might be slight variations on the theme but basically the beat went on, week after week.

Tonight was different. She climbed out of bed when she could no longer stand the dullness, put more wood into the stove, made a cup of tea and moved her chair in front of the sliding glass door to watch the moonlight on the mountains and write a bit. Perhaps later she’d go back to bed and catch a memorable dream.

For years she promised herself this kind of respect; to walk away purposefully and with design from a sleepless night. Instead, she suffered the tedium of endless hours; neither asleep nor mentally, or physically engaged enough to be awake.

She tried prayer. She found the rapport with spirits inspiring but rather one sided thereby bound toward emotional and intellectual collapse. Each dearly departed would drift in, one by one, leave a bit of residual doo then mist off again, nothing substantial. Of course, what could she expect? She stood committed that engaging with ephemeral dust was generally better than overly pinging off the inside of her own head.

And now, it was nearly New Years!

New Year's
By Bei Dao

Translated By David Hinton and Yanbing Chen

a child carrying flowers walks toward the new year
a conductor tattooing darkness
listens to the shortest pause

hurry a lion into the cage of music
hurry stone to masquerade as a recluse
moving in parallel nights

who's the visitor? when the days all
tip from nests and fly down roads
the book of failure grows boundless and deep

each and every moment's a shortcut
I follow it through the meaning of the East
returning home, closing death's door

"New Year" by Bei Dao, translated by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen, from LANDSCAPE OVER ZERO, copyright © 1995, 1996 by Zhao Zhenkai, Translation copyright © 1995, 1996 by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen.  New Directions Publishing Corp.


Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.  
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,  
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,  
lists of vegetables, partial poems.  
Orange swirling flame of days,  
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,  
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.  
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,  
only the things I didn’t do  
crackle after the blazing dies.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted without the permission of the author, though I'd prefer otherwise. Naomi, this is beautiful might I be in touch to compensate you?

She thought back to last New Year. That was the final time she attempted to entrance him with her "Feminine Mystic Wiles”, her “Hoo-doo Dance of Love Joy.”  His drowse proved far more intoxicating than aged thighs working classic Fosse rhythm and jive in tight heels, step sliding to a random selection of Internet Radio. Said in a whisper more like a prayer, “Someone, anyone, we need, Really need live radio, a DJ's musical discretion tonight” 

Once again, dust.