Life With Horace

poetry & essays

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a glimpse of truth,
new knowledge
armoring the possible,
slaying dragons quietly
for the child that lives in me,
the simple telling moment,
small pebble in the pond,
that ripples out
in growing rings
of confidence,
headed for certainty

turning points don’t arrive on schedule, but when they do, no matter the catalyst, change can be profound.

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as I begin with gratitude
for another morning,
today my thanks include
the gift from countless
soldiers, first responders,
citizen patriots all
who came when called for service
volunteers or not,
willingly or not,
just cause or not.

they put themselves
between their country
and a bullet
aimed at its heart,
a human shield
to turn back
fire and dread upon itself
lest their wrath
engulf us all.

the possibility of choice,
of disagreement with
the forward march of war,
lives on for us
because of their belief
that stepping forward
was an act of honor.

that they
no longer breathe,
or rejoice in
our country’s rare
unfettered freedoms
while I and
countless others do,
fills me with
abiding gratitude.

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local hitchhiker turns 90

Wish I could claim that zinger, but my nephew Adam delivered it sotto voce during the round of group photos at my sister Annie’s house this afternoon. A headline typical of our old small town newspaper, the Hudson Register Star.

Finally mellowing nicely thank you, my one-of-a-kind, definitely wacky stepmother Dorothy turned 90 today, and Annie rallied us to make the trek to the Berkshires for brunch in her honor. After a nice meal in a Lenox full of City weekenders, we regrouped to West Stockbridge to hang out for the afternoon. What a luxury.

gathering for DorothyIt was wonderful to be all together for a normal, non-BDM* occasion. There are six of us, of varied parental combinations, and except for Julie, the youngest (who lives in NZ, so she gets a pass), we all showed up, plus four out of seven next-genners, two with offspring of their own in tow.

Dorothy is the last elder in my immediate family, the only one left who “knew us all when”. Despite a rather checkered career as mother and stepmother, she has cruised into old age shedding neuroses and snarky tendencies, endearing herself to her grandchildren as she mellows out.

At the end of the afternoon my sister and I were marveling at “Zen Dorothy”, laughing that it was too bad it took her so long! In the words of the immortal (equally screwed up) Peter Sellers, “it is better to be late than never”. Oh yeah.

Dorothy grew up in Brooklyn, as did my Dad.

She loves Lottie Lenya in Brecht, Eggs Benedict, jazz, books, books, books, silly humor, left leaning politics, the theater, Ed Levin silver jewelry, bright colors, her plants and The Weavers.

Her children, stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren certainly.

My Dad once, then not. Then again for a while, then… eventually not. They separated for the final time a few years after they remarried.

Her friendships have been long and deep, even though she has always been able to alienate people close to her at the drop of a hat.

She has always been without prejudice (except perhaps towards those inflamed by it).

And she hitchhiked.

Once she could no longer drive, before her move to assisted living, she made us all crazy hitchhiking in and around Hudson NY, or when she visited family if no one was available to take her somewhere at the exact moment she wanted to go. These days commandeering a ride on someone’s walker seat is the only possibility.

Happy Birthday Dorothy. You are a marvel. I’m so glad we were there to celebrate with you. Lots of love.

*BDM = Births, Deaths, Marriages

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at some point in the spring
with final farewells said,
the forest floor,
so visible all winter,
stuck with upright trunks
and fallen wood
against the snow
or rich red-brown,
retreats awhile
to steep its humus brew

and with the first
green carpet runners
stretched out by a path
or rolled along a stream,
the leaves emerge
in verdant tonal steps
from brown to red
to fresh pastel
and map the world beneath
with sun and shade

while at the very top,
among the branching crowns
a child’s delight returns,
remembered shapes or faces
in the trees, glimpsed
from a bedtime pillow,
boon companions
for another summer

With winter ebbing very slowly this year, the woods floor began to look quite different as the angle of the sun changed. It was marvelous to see it in this new light, and I realized that I’d miss it with the advent of true spring. I’ve always found shapes of animals or objects or more often, faces, in the leaves and branches of summer, yet another reason I love having a window by my bed.

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Mother Nature’s version of make up sex

It’s safe to say we all had a crappy, long, drawn out winter, weather-wise. So imagine my surprise that when the new season finally arrived, it wasn’t one of those small and hasty slots wedged in between freezing and roasting.

Up here at the foot of Monadnock there has been a delicate progression, a slow introduction of green at our feet, buds ripening, canada mayflowers carpeting our path through the woods.

Fiddleheads thrusting up and unfurling, daffies and tulips bringing the first color in months.

Daylily leaves are curving gently, rambling roses sending out new shoots, flower beds repopulating. The rhubarb bed is lush. The weeping cherry and plum tree are full of color. I didn’t know before moving here that plum blossoms smell, well, plummy, but they most certainly do.

The apple tree outside our kitchen door is now in flower, and the lilacs have just emerged.

Many years this all happens like a collapsing telescope, but not right now. The temperature has crept slowly, slowly upwards. What a gift.

Added to all this largesse there are the new birds. At least, new to this place since I’ve been here.

Indigo Buntings, Pine Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles have joined the line-up this year. Wonderful flashes of color, especially the Indigo Buntings.

We live at the junction of piney woods, the mountain’s lower reach, the Fassett Brook delta, and Perkins Pond, so we see some nice birds year round. Lots of Ravens. Bears too.

The slate colored juncoes and cowbirds have moved north for the summer.

The usual suspects have all turned up to join the winter jays, woodpeckers, mourning doves, titmice and chickadees — American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, 6-plus varieties of sparrows, Catbirds, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Bluebirds, Red Wing Blackbirds, Tricolor Blackbirds and Evening Grosbeaks. Grackles too.

Great blue herons cruise by, with their unmistakable wing beat and are all over the wetlands. Thrushes are singing in the woods at twilight.

The butterflies and moths are making their entrance too.

So I’m feeling pretty flush right now. Livened and renewed by MN’s wonderful Spring, after the fight this winter proved to be, and grateful, definitely.

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the way light plays

there is wind this morning,
backed by clear bright light,
just enough to move
the clouds I see
along the mountain arm.
they are solid burghers,
nothing flimsy, without
wings or tails in flight
yet they are bordered brilliantly,
as though the light is urging them
to weightlessness and speed,
to dance across the day
and play there with the sun