52 Photos ~ Polka dots

Polka Dot Restaurant

Dots on edge

Polka Dot Counter

Yellow Beak

A man owns a green parrot with a yellow beak
that he carries on his shoulder each day to work.
He runs a pet shop and the parrot is his trademark.

Each morning the man winds his way from his bus
through the square, four or five blocks. There goes
the parrot, people say. Then at night, he comes back.

The man himself is nondescript—a little overweight,
thinning hair of no color at all. It’s like the parrot owns
the man, not the reverse. Then one day the man dies.

He was old. It was bound to happen. At first people
feel mildly upset. The butcher thinks he has forgotten
a customer who owes him money. The baker thinks

he’s catching a cold. Soon they get it right—the parrot
is gone. Time seems out of sorts, but sets itself straight
as people forget. Then years later the fellow who ran

the diner wakes from a dream where he saw the parrot
flying along all by itself, flapping by in the morning
and cruising back home at night. Those were the years

of the man’s marriage, the start of his family, the years
when the muddle of his life began to work itself out;
and it’s as if the parrot were at the root of it all, linking

the days like pearls on a string. Foolish of course, but
do you see how it might happen? We wake at night
and recall an event that seems to define a fixed period

of time, perhaps the memory of a beat-up bike we had
as a kid, or a particular chair where we sat and laughed
with friends; a house, a book, a piece of music, even

a green parrot winding its way through city streets.
And do you see that bubble of air balanced at the tip
of its yellow beak? That’s the time in which we lived.

–Stephen Dobyns

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Dessert

Pumpkin pie shells

Pumpkin pies

Teeny tiny pumpkin pies

Recipe

Declare a day of gluttony.
Chill the Western hemisphere.
Over a base of granite, soil, clay,
wheat and corn fields, drizzle
rivers.
Lay down thick, black ribbons
of tar and concrete
from one ocean to the other.
Reread the recipe.
Assemble all ingredients
in a four-wheeled box.
Agitate steadily for a day.
Liberally distribute
nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs.
Periodically, open the doors,
to allow in the chilled air,
wind, exhaust, light,
sounds of gravel.
Be quiet.
When golden, remove
and let warm in the kitchen.
Share the crumbs, too.

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

You can find the recipe for the really delicious molasses-spice pumpkin pie filling I used here.

52 Photos ~ My work

Word by word

When I was child, I never had a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I assume various adults asked me the question, but I don’t remember the asking, and I certainly don’t remember my answers. I wanted to read, and play with animals, and sing songs.

For awhile, when I was still under five feet tall and skinny as stick, I dreamed of being a jockey. Later, I imaginined being a large-animal vet. But I worried if I could pass the required math and science classes, and, more than that, I worried that my empathy for animals would be debilitating when it came to hurting them in order to help them.

For pocket money, I did what many teens do: babysat the neighbors’ children. I never much enjoyed it; I didn’t know how to relate to children until I had my own. For a couple summers, I worked at riding stable, grooming horses, mucking stalls, teaching beginners. I loved that dusty, dirty, horse-smelly job, but I didn’t really see a future in it.

One summer, I worked at our family’s hot dog stand at a marina in northern Ontario. It was fun for a bit (free french fries!) until the rush orders came in and I got behind and mixed up who wanted pickles and who wanted onions. Multi-tasking with mustard.

All along, from the moment in first grade when I made the connection between sounds, words, and reading (and I still remember that thrilling moment, clear as a ringing bell), I’ve been doodling with words. I wrote a lot of short stories as a kid. I had a little typewriter and I clacked away on that. Later, typewriters gave way to computers. I found I had a lot of stories inside, bursting to get out.

None of my teachers ever told me I could be a writer.

My father, seeing my interest in writing but being a practical person, suggested that I be a technical writer. I shunned that idea. No way. Not for me. I told my favorite high school English teacher about the idea. She said, “You know there’s a reason they call computer terminals TERMINAL.”

Enough said.

I entered college as an English major with no real thought in my head of what job that would lead to. I just loved to read and write. And four years of that sounded kind of like I was getting away with something delightful.

In my senior year, I took a class called “Advanced Expository Writing” (these days, I suppose it would be called “Creative Non-Fiction”). The professor was one I adored, and feared. He made me nervous because he knew so much, had such strong opinions, and felt so deeply about the written word. I supposed I feared him because I wanted so much to impress him.

The class required us to write a lot of persuasive and personal essays. I’d never done that before (by then, I was writing a lot of poems, and a lot of research papers). It suited me. I enjoyed that new expository voice I didn’t know I had. Two times that I remember, he singled out sections of my essays to read to the class, in his slow, precise, expressive voice. It set me aglow.

One day, he asked me what I planned to do when I graduated. I said I didn’t know. I was thinking maybe of becoming a technical writer. He paused, looked straight into my eyes, and said “Why?”

Well, the answers were obvious, but I knew what he was asking. The truth is, I didn’t have the faith in myself then to be a writer. A REAL writer. A poet. Or an essayist. A storyteller. I needed an apartment, a job, a bridge from university student to adult, and writing about computers was one way to do it.

That career has served me well. You might say excellently. It made my life. Because of it, I met M, and we had H. Because of it, I could contribute financially to our life in this old farmhouse, get goats, take trips, make life-long friends. All this by stitching words together.

But the story isn’t over yet.

More and more, in the evenings and the mornings, I steal time to write those poems and essays. Someday, when I grow up, I might just be a real writer…

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ On my way

On my way

Almost every week, this photo project puts a song in my head.

This week’s song is one that parents with children of a certain age will remember from the movie “Ice Age,” which we watched approximately seven billion times when H was small. And which we all loved. And laughed at, especially when Scrat got squeezed between the cliff walls and his eyes filled like two huge balloons that threatened to pop out of his head. Oh, how we howled.

And cried at the goodbye at the end.

Don’t forget about us. We won’t forget about you.

I don’t remember the last time we watched that movie. Or “Finding Nemo,” which we quoted from daily for at least a year.

Mine! Mine! Mine!

Do you have your exit buddy?

No eating here tonight; you’re on a diet.

Or “Toy Story 2,” which H insisted that M tell her the plot of (in its entirety) as a bedtime story. Every night. For months. And so he got terribly good at shortening it, capturing all of the important events, whittling it down to something like 90 seconds. Until, at some point she no longer required that story.

But when was the last time?

We don’t record such things, mostly because we don’t know that it’s the last. I think about that a lot. About last times that I didn’t recognize. The last time I took a walk in the valley with our old dog, Phoebe. The last time I carried H. The last time I looked in my mother’s eyes.

Maybe it’s better that way. Not to have to grieve every last event, knowing it would be the last, but to move blithely on to the next, to firsts that we also don’t recognize as firsts.

That view above is one of many stunning outlooks on the way from our house to H’s school. We get to see it when the morning sun is just cresting the ridge, and in full-sun afternoons, and everything in between. This time of year, the sunlight slants in weakly, under the clouds, to make the mountainsides appear velveted. Hushed. Swept clean and ready for snowfall.

H has seen that view, coming and going, every school day since she was in preschool at the top of Thetford Hill.

“I remember when all this was fields,” she’ll someday tell a friend or a sweetheart, when she returns here from wherever her adult life takes her. Uncounted lasts behind her, glorious firsts ahead.

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Round

Round

Once More, the Round

What’s greater, Pebble or Pond?
What can be known? The Unknown.
My true self runs toward a Hill
More! O More! visible.

Now I adore my life
With the Bird, the abiding Leaf,
With the Fish, the questing Snail,
And the Eye altering All;
And I dance with William Blake
For love, for Love’s sake;

And everything comes to One,
As we dance on, dance on, dance on.

–Theodore Roethke

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Photos ~ Celebration

Prize

28 weeks in to this photo project and this is the first one that really stumped me.

This has not been a celebratory week. Things are breaking left and right. Bones, feelings, electronic gadgets, automobiles.

I went marching out today with dog and camera, daring the world to show me something to celebrate.

Then, of course, it was staring me in the face. All of it.

Darn it. Look around.

There’s the obvious sunrise, of course, and the dappled clouds. The foggy hills and leaf littered path. The dog’s happy tail and the crow with its prize.

Then look further.

Microwave popcorn. Thick paperback novels. Shoes that fit. Glass. Ink. Record albums. Soap. Carrots. Mantis shrimp. Mittens. Bricks. Wheelbarrows. Instant read thermometers. Pencils. Wool comforters. Knives.

Gravity. Oxygen. Rotation. Atmosphere. Orbit. Hydrogen.

Carbon.

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This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

October, beguile us in the way you know

Connecticut River

October

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

–Robert Frost, from A Boy’s Will, 1913

Smudge

Ghosts

Lone

Reflected

Inlet

Morning

Bridge

52 Photos ~ First thing I see

Early light

Falls gold

Niagara river gold

Hydro sun

Fog cradle

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These photos and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.