Poetry Friday: It’s May by Barbara Crooker

Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Elizabeth Steinglass 

fullsizeoutput_bf1

April was a month for waiting…waiting for more two or more days of successive sunshine, waiting for news of a visit from my children, waiting for the vet and the sheep shearer, waiting for new medication to kick in, waiting for the rain to cease, waiting for the lilacs to bloom.  Waiting, in short, for today – the first of May.

Often, in April, I read the poem below; on dreary days punctuated by rain, fog, and copious amounts of mud, this poem gave me particular comfort.  Of course, the last lines of the first stanza have added meaning these Covid days, but I’ve preferred to dwell in all the other lines that speak of nature’s gifts and call upon us to cherish them.

IMG_1028

A different kind of Easter Sunday

IMG_3887

We had a beautiful sunrise, this Easter Sunday.  I tarried a bit longer with my first before-morning-chores cup of coffee just to give this first gift of the morning its due.  I could have tarried longer, the sheep wouldn’t have much minded waiting for their pasture time.  On other Easters, I reflected, there would have been no time to tarry: getting the children ready for church, setting the table for Easter company, trying to fit in sous chef duties, running the vacuum over wherever the dog last chose to sleep…to tarry was verboten.  This is a very different Easter, though – no children, no company, no church.   This is our COVID19 Easter.

I mind most that the children are not home, even though they have chosen wisely to remain in self isolation in their own Brooklyn apartments.   The irony is that I came to know and live the Easter season because of the children.   We were an atheistic family when I was growing up, my father was especially anti-religion, organized or otherwise, and the rest of us fell into line.  I married a man of faith, however, and we agreed to raise our children in the Presbyterian Church.  I did not know the first thing about Presbyterianism and there was much in Christianity that I struggled to understand, let alone accept.  But, I thought it important that the children have the structure and ritual of a religion while growing up.  Rationalism and unbelief offer small comfort in times of greatest need, I had come to learn in the course of my own life.

And so I did my best to get our kids to church, and Sunday school.  All three children had their father’s gift for music, and all three sang in the children’s choirs as they grew up, so there was the driving to and from that, too.   Our church was blessed to have a rigorous and inspiring program, and they learned to recognize and love the beauty of sacred music, as did I.  I believe that I came closest to belief in those moments of hearing such music.  Faith was still out of my reach, but the power of story through music spoke to me, comforted me.  And, it was especially meaningful to look out at the choir and see my family, all contributing their voices to the story telling.

This Easter, I will not hear their voices singing out.  There are no Easter baskets to prepare or egg hunts to organize.  We will be sitting to dinner just the two of us, and the house looks tidy enough as it is – no need to vacuum, dust,  set the best dishes on the table, or fuss over which flowers from the garden to cut for our centerpiece.   But, I am filled with wonderful memories of Easters past nevertheless, and I can still hear the voices of my children exclaiming over finding chocolate eggs and jelly beans hidden in unusual places all over the house.  And, if I listen closely, I can hear them singing…

Poetry Friday: Eating Fried Eggs at Gail’s by Barbara Crooker

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm.

Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 7.13.24 AM

When my children were young, eggs made sunny side up and arranged on toast was considered an awesome weekend breakfast.  I can’t remember now who in our family came up with this moniker, but we called eggs made this way “golden sunshine”.  Three pairs of bright eyes would follow my every move as I cracked each egg as carefully as I could so as not to mess with the central point of this entire endeavor: those perfect, golden, delicious yolks.  Each child had their own way approaching the finished product: Elizabeth cut her toast into perfect strips so as to dip each into the yolks, Ben went to work with his knife and fork immediately to create a plateful of yolky bites of toast, and Olivia carefully saved the yolk for the very end.

These days, my kiddos have more elaborate choices for weekend breakfasts when they come home to visit or take us out for brunch: shakshuka, omelettes stuffed with fancy fillings, creamy frittatas with unusual veggies.  Their “golden sunshine” days are long ago in the past, but I remembered them so very fondly when I read this poem in Barbara Crooker’s Some Glad Morning:

Eating Fried Eggs at Gail’s by Barbara Crooker

Still warm, slipped from under the feathers
of Brownie, Silver, Little Red,
brought inside to be cracked and flipped
in the hiss of hot bacon fat, cooked fast
until the whites harden, grow lacy
around the edges, then slid onto a plate,
yolks intact, until we break them intentionally,
spearing them with our forks, spreading
sunshine all over our plates.

National Poetry Month: The Progressive Poem

pp image

Welcome to day 8 of the Progressive Poem, started by Irene Latham,

the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem began in 2012 as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month (April) as a community of writers.

Margaret Simon  kindly  volunteered to organize the poem roster for 2020.  And Donna Smith made the whole exercise  a bit more challenging by providing two lines for Irene to choose from for the first line of this year’s poem. So, we have a  “choose your own adventure” progressive poem!

Yesterday, Catherine Flynn offered these two lines for me to consider:

A whispering breeze joins in our song (Option A)

OR

I step onto warm sand, strumming my tune (Option B)

We’ve had two blissful days of Spring with lovely breezes here in upstate New York, after a very long Winter, so that’s where my heart took me.  Here’s the poem so far:

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway
along the wiregrass path to the lake.
I carry a rucksack of tasty cakes
and a banjo passed down from my gram.

I follow the tracks of deer and raccoon
and echo the call of a wandering loon.
A whispering breeze joins in our song

Here are are my two choices for Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link: 

Adding a melody to follow along .(Option A)

And night melts into a rose gold dawn. (Option B)

 

 

 

Poetry Friday: Early Spring in the Field by Tom Hennen

Heidi Mordhorst hosts today’s Poetry Friday roundup at My Juicy Little Universe.

IMG_3735

It’s a moody day here, this Poetry Friday: fog, rain, wind…we have it all, all day. Not surprisingly, the sheep were reluctant to leave the comfort of the barn this morning, and have chosen to protest in groups of two and three all morning when they see me pass within view.

Bowie, our guardian dog, seems utterly uninterested in her job today. Not even the enormous truck carrying sap collected from the woods around us to the maple sugar house up our hill, normally a source of much barking and racing around, can get her to move from her dry spot under the barn eaves.

In the midst of this soggy gloom, I notice that the daffodils are coming up nicely, as are a few crocuses here and there. The pastures are greening, too, and the tiniest of buds have begun to appear on our apple trees. I no longer need my heaviest winter jacket, and even gloves and hat can be dispensed with for most of the day.

The world may be crashing and burning, but Nature remains constant in her promise that after Winter comes Spring.

Early Spring in the Field by Tom Hennen

The crow’s voice filtered through the walls of the farmhouse
makes sounds of a rusty car engine turning over. Clouds on a
north wind that whistles softly and cold. Spruce trees planted
in a line on the south side of the house weave and scrape at the
air. I’ve walked to a far field to a fence line of rocks where I am
surprised to see soft mud this raw day. No new tracks in the
mud, only desiccated grass among the rocks, a bare grove of
trees in the distance, a blue sky thin as an eggshell with a crack
of dark geese running through it, their voices faint and almost
troubled as they disappear in a wedge that has opened at last
the cold heart of winter.

The family call

IMG_8527

We talked to the kids last night, all three of them patched into one conference call to the farm.  Each of them were in their separate Brooklyn apartments, cooking dinner or doing laundry or stretched out on a sofa, but or the next hour it felt as though they were by the  wood stove with us.

The original plan had been for them to self isolate for fifteen days and then drive up to the farm for the next few weeks.  They are at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and it gave us some comfort to think that they could ride out this epidemic in a pace just a bit more safe because we are, literally, in the middle of nowhere.

But the kids have chosen to stay on where they are, mostly because they are afraid of bringing the virus to us. “I wish I could be with my parents when the world is falling apart,” said Olivia, “but I’m just doing what I can to protect myself and my parents.”  We are grateful for their concern and admire their determined resiliency, still…we wish they were here.

The family call will have to do for now, a new tradition to bring our family some comfort and companionship no matter how far away from each other we are.

Poetry Friday:Waiting for the Present by Al Zolynas

Tabatha Yeatts hosts today’s Poetry Friday round up @ The Opposite of Indifference

IMG_8020

The sky this morning looked dark and moody, not even the glimmer of sun lurked behind the hills of our valley.  By the time I had my first cup of coffee and started out for morning chores, that dreariness had shifted into delight.  Clouds were lifting at last, and it looked as though we were to be gifted with a fine day.  Or so I told myself, and continue to tell myself, each new day in the shadow of this pandemic.

A few days ago, a beloved friend, the mother of two teenage children home for perhaps the rest of the school year,  wrote to me.  She said: “I’m grieving this morning for teenagers who should be social and developing their separated identities right now.  I’m working towards understanding that I can no longer let school create our household schedule.  It’s always been the center that other activities revolve around.  Each day when I wake, I feel a deep sadness that requires strong coffee and the building of fortitude so I can do the work that needs to be done.  We aren’t on a ship alone, but lately it can feel a lot like that, can’t it?”

Today I overheard one of my children talking to her father, describing what it feels like to live and work in Brooklyn right now – where  the streets are eerily quiet, with stores and restaurants shuttered, and “normal” life seeming to be a thing of the past.  It is hard to breathe sometimes, she said, I feel such a knot of anxiety.  Implicit in all she said was a sense of dread about the future: what would it hold? how will it have changed?

There is nothing I could say of solace to either my friend or my daughter; we know that things will get worse before they get better, and things seem already so bad, so hopeless.  My friend knits, my daughter does yoga and meditates, and these acts bring momentary peace.  I guess that’s what I do every morning, too, when I wait on the path to the barn for the sun to rise in whatever fashion it chooses to rise.  In that moment, I feel absolutely still and living in the moment.  And, no matter what else happens as the day unfolds, I can always go back to the solace of that moment.

Waiting for the Present by Al Zolynas

I would sit in the dimness
of my father’s wooden toolshed
waiting for the mice
to come out and feed
on the wheat we kept
in a hundred-pound sack for the chickens.

I kept silence, refusing
even to swallow, hoping the thud
of my heart wouldn’t betray me.
The only way to the sack
was over my still body.

Outside, it was Australia,
Christmas, summer holidays—
the heat unbearable to all but reptiles
and schoolboys, and the mice
who lived their small, secret lives.

When the first mouse
nosed up the unfamiliar landscape
of my body, motes of dust
floating in the beams of light
that streamed in from the cracks in the wall
exploded minutely.

After hours of sitting
through the long summer, motionless,
alert, though my limbs were asleep,
the mice accepted me.
I simply became the way to their food.
Once, as many as a dozen were on me,
each carrying a single, precious grain.

Now, years later, I find myself still
sitting in the dim light,
legs locked in meditation, monkey-mind
swinging between imagined past and imagined future,
waiting for that most obvious of hiddens,
the ungraspable present.

Grocery shopping in these times

Shopping for groceries is an entirely different, and somewhat weird, experience these days. I still have a list of things I need for this meal or that household chore, but these days I have to also be on the lookout for things that are vanishing from the shelves at an alarming rate and never (or so it seems) replenished.

Because the stores around us were slow to place limits on how much any one person could buy at one time, we have a permanent toilet paper crisis here in upstate New York.  Just a week ago, I walked by fully stacked shelves of flour, and now they are gone baby, GONE!  Pasta, butter, frozen vegetables…same story.

So, these days, I shop with an eye for what seems to be vanishing, rather than what I just need at the moment.  Case in point, mayonnaise.  There were two solitary jars left yesterday, sitting unhappily on opposite ends of an otherwise empty shelf.  Back in my short lived Martha Stewart phase, I used to make my own mayo, and perhaps some day soon I shall have to do that again.  Yesterday, both jars made it into my cart, just in case mayo would go the way of toilet paper and flour.

The silver lining here, is that grocery shopping has become a community affair these days.  A group of us text each other if we happen to be heading out to the store, and so we are able to help each other out even as we try to maintain social distancing in the time of COVID19.  So, I was able to get Ann the parsnips and onions she needed for her stew, and Socrates (yes, that really is his name) the egg whites he’d requested.  I returned home having dropped these items off on front porches, to find the two leaves of bread I’d asked Kelly to pick up on her run to the bakery in Vermont.   Something about this circle of being connected and collaborating over the  mundane but necessary task of keeping ourselves supplied, feels good…feels right.

The trouble with Roscoe…

When the six chickens first arrived to the farm last summer and took up residence in their coop, I thought that was that.  And, for a few weeks, it was.  They settled in, ate their way through buckets of crumble and compost, and soon began laying eggs in lovely shades of brown, blue, and green.

Then, an acquaintance suggested that my chickens would be happier if there was a rooster present; apparently this would increase their productivity, which would make me happier, too.  While I was trying to work out the logic of all of this, he showed me a picture of the rooster he had in mind, which he would be more than pleased to drop off at the farm, free of charge.   The rooster was handsome, and the word “free” had such a pleasant sound.  Plus, wouldn’t our idyllic farm be all the more idyllic if it had a handsome rooster greeting each sunrise with his melodious crowing?

And so, Roscoe came to the farm the very next day.

The thing about Roscoe is that he begins his crowing at three in the morning – a non-stop crowing that is anything  but melodious.  As an insomniac, I usually begin to fall into a deep sleep just as Roscoe gets going.  Which brings me to the other thing about Roscoe, which is that I think he does this deliberately.  There is a certain gleam in his eyes when he sees me, a look of evil intent.  I don’t know why I sense this, but I think Roscoe lurks around the farm plotting ways to do me in.

So, I thought I’d make the first move by asking around if anyone was interested in a handsome rooster of their own, an early riser who would keep any honest farmer to an honest early-to-rise schedule.  Not having heard back from anyone after weeks of asking (some might have interpreted this as pleading, even whining), I placed an ad in Craigs List (under FREE stuff).  No takers thus far, sadly, but I still have hope…especially at three in the morning.

IMG_7328

Poetry Friday: Lost by David Wagoner

IMG_7848

The poetry round-up this week is hosted by Michelle Kogan.

I haven’t felt like writing these past two weeks, nothing I have to say seems worthy of being written, or perhaps the real reason is the sense of confusion and anxiety I feel well up every time I try to address what it is that I feel and think.

My  children have hunkered down in their Brooklyn apartments, working from home and trying to stir as little as possible into deserted streets for the occasional trip to the grocery store or laundromat.  They sound tired, stressed, uncertain, and more than just a bit without a sense of hope.  The future, even tomorrow, seems full of dread.  Once their self-quarantines have come to an end, they plan to drive up to the farm for as long as necessary.

Here in upstate New York, farm life goes on for one and all.  I can see lights twinkling  from the dairy down the valley early every morning, and the cornfields everywhere around us are already being prepped for Spring planting.  The feed store, which I visit at least once every week, is still a busy place.  Yesterday was warm, which made me commit to putting through the order of summer flower seeds I’d been pining after.  The Angora goats arrive in two weeks, and I went ahead with plans to build a small pen for them within the barn.  The flock will be sheared soon, and I am getting ready with plans for their gorgeous fleeces.

It’s important to stay abreast of the news in times like these, and so I dip in here and there to learn what I can.  Little of the news is good, it seems, and then I read about good people doing good deeds. It brings to mind Fred Rogers’ observation :“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  There are many people helping out there, rising to the occasion, doing the hard things necessary to keep others safe and well tended to.

And there is Nature, free of charge, offering her comforts, too…

Lost by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.