Sunday, May 30, 2010

Walking The Sun Dog

This morning, before the acidity of java burned through my brain-fog, I wondered what in the world to write about. It turns out that I'm scribbling about something not of this world, at least to a degree. Ever hear of a sun dog? It's a solar phenomenon caused by sunlight refracting through ice crystals in cirrus clouds, creating a second sun, halo, or patch of rainbow-colored light. Sound boring, like something out of your high-school science book? Believe me, it's not boring at all. Imagine looking into the sky and finding a swatch of rainbow suspended there. Better yet, a complete circle of light, colors prismed around it, a friend to share it with, witness that your neurons didn't hiccup your wild days of experimenting with mind-altering wantoness.

Since the first time I saw a sun dog, I've always kept watch for more. It's a reminder to me that the world is a place full of interesting things, that earth is only the beginning in finding them, and that when we do, they can change us in unexpected ways.
One afternoon, sitting in traffic and impatient to get home, I remembered about sun dogs, looked up and sure enough found one, a beautifuly bright one. I looked around to see if anyone else saw it. No, not one person had their neck crooked up, no smile spread on their face. What a shame. This was too good not to share. I looked to my left, to the car beside me- a middle aged guy, starched shirt, pensive expression. I thought, no, this guy wouldn't give a rats' pitootee about a splotch of light in the sky. Likely, he would ingore me at best, give me a dirty look at worst.
But then, I took a chance. I just had to share this with someone, open the door for anyone to see beauty in the natural world. We do spend too much time with our gadgets, hurrying into cubicles of work and home and solitude.
I rolled down my window, lightly tapped my horn. I got his attention, smiled and pointed to the sky. To my suprise, he did look. And then he smiled. He no longer was the middle-aged guy balding in his stiff shirt, mouth down-turned to the world. He became more of himself. At least that's what I like to think. He rolled down his window, asked me what in the world that thing was. When I told him, I had the feeling he was going to go home and look it up, that he may start to watch the sky as well. I also had the feeling that he didn't see me as only someone in painter's whites, driving a beat up truck that had long lost its shine.
The light changed. Time to move on.
It's a wonderful thing to have one's faith in nature to change us proved in unexpected ways.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Snakes for Goodness Sakes!

Folks have one of two reactions to serpents- fear or attraction. I observe this all the time, from guests in my home who either scurry wild-eyed past the snake tanks, or peer inside for a better look. Many times, someone with the fear reaction, will make efforts to work through it with the help of my corn snake. Bright candy-orange, she looks like a toy. Very threatening indeed. It's interesting to watch their faces switch from tense as steel coils to relaxed and smiling. These people walk away with less of a weight, quite proud for facing down fear. And I know that there is one less snake that could die from being found in someone's garden. I often feel like a mediator between humans and serpents, a role I'm happy to take to shore up a rift amongst species, heal over phobias and mis-information, religious propaganda towards a creature who's only role is to exist with the rest of us.
Now, granted, I wouldn't go trying to make a pet out of a rattler, or think that a 30foot python with 30 feet of attitude would be a loving snuggle-bunny. Some creatures are best left to themselves, especially if they don't like humans. That doesn't take much fatty matter to figure out. But, there are some snakes that get along with us quite well, show emotion, even affection. Suprised? I was, at least to the way it was expressed. And here is where learning something from another being comes in, one of the reasons I have snakes. Although, if I had the means, this place would be a zoo- in a good way.
Shortly after I got my boa and we were still getting aquianted with each other, I took her out for sun in the backyard, draped her over my shoulders while I enjoyed the iris blooms. Then, along came the neighbor's cat wanting attention and treats. Yeah, they all come here. The word is out. Even the possum is spoiled.
So, I'm petting the cat, rubbing it's cheeks while it purrs all over the begonias. Meanwhile, the snake is watching all of this. I know because I'm watching the snake to make sure she doesn't get the idea that the cat is dinner. Suddenly, the snake lifts her head off my shoulder, rubs her face against my cheek, just like I was doing to the cat. I was astounded. But that's not all she did. Just to be sure there was no misunderstanding, she slithered to my left and rubbed against my other cheek. Now, you may not believe that, or maybe you do. And you can make of it what you will. It was simply my experience, and sometimes, that's all that matters to make a difference for us, how we percieve things or even ourselves. I no longer saw reptiles as existing through only a reptilian brain. I saw them as more complex, more feeling. Granted, their expressions of emotion are sometimes much more subtle than ours, since they have no facial muscles to convey feelings. But, for me, that is part of their teaching- to calm our hurried selves down and pay attention. That in doing so, we become more aware and sensitive to subtleties within and without. That we are missing too much by not observing things outside of the farmiliar, and that the differences may not always be so great.
Our complex brains can sometimes make us too busy to realize that we get in our own way. Thank goodness for so-called simple creatures to nudge us back onto proper footing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bad Kitty

Last week, I was challenged to write about the bodily functions of cats, how they conflict with our mental well-being. You folks who plod into the morning, barefoot and bleary-eyed, understand this, deal with the weekly trauma of stepping onto something cold and squishy, something your cat left special just for you, left obviously in your path to the coffee pot. Cats are excellent observers.

For those who do not have cats and are considering getting one, beware my friends, beware.

Scenes From The Litter Box

I hear it... blahp, blahp,
kitty puke on the floor,

Sometimes I find it
in the dark.
I don't like finding it.

Kitty thinks I should get up at 5am
to feed her,
tell her how pretty she is.
Bratty cat.
She has technique:
sit by face- stare,
scratch furniture- stare,
rattle blinds with claw,
get claw stuck in blinds
till human gets out of bed.
Except, this time, I went back to bed.
It's 5am.

It is very quiet now.
Too quiet.
Maybe she's tired of her game
and that sausage roll of puke-slimed hair is a trap.
I'll slip and fall.
crack open my head.
She'll have a nice supply of meat,
till she has to figure out
how to open the door.

I think I hear my keys jingling.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I bet that name caught your attention, though it may have tied your toungue into a Gordian knot. And yes, it is a name, an Appalachian home-spun twist on Rumplestiltskin, conjured up by author and Push-Cart Prize nominee, Becky Mushko. Her new book, titled of course, Ferradiddledumday, has been well-recieved throughout the Appalachia/Blue Ridge region for weaving new threads into a favorite story, threads of mountain heritage rooted in Old Country traditions of magic and fey, the dangers of pacts made without understanding consequences, the desperation that drives us to them and the importance of kin to help us through.

Mushko's fresh version is a page-turner for both young and old, filled with the imagery of mountain life and land, illustrations hued with care blended into the ink.
And as a treat, she includes a study and discussion guide at the end of the book, delving into its origins and history.

If you have children, you will want to read this wonderful story to them. But, don't be suprised if they snatch the book out of your hands and read it themselves. Better yet, contact the author to come visit your school group if you live within 200 miles of Franklin County, Virginia at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iris Show

Can you imagine the scent of iris filling a room, people humming around blooms like drunken bees, too enchanted by sweetness to let a grain of bitter cling to their faces? I can. The memory is like pollen gathered unintentionally by the circumstance of movement through the day, of a moment when I felt a weight clinging, pulling me into an awareness- that everyone in the room was transformed by blooms. Not one up-turned face soured the fragrance of the air. People smiled, talked among strangers like old friends sharing treasure stashed in stalks of color.
The iris club I belong to, Louisville Area Iris Society, recently had a show and sale. I had the privilage of sitting in that room a good part of the day, tending to various duties. It didn't take long to feel my own mood shift, lighten as if I were one of those molecules of sweet floating around the room.
There is an intangible fact about gardeners- they are generous with themselves, their plantings, their seeds, as if sowing gratitude into earth. I think it's because they sow themselves into the day bent on their kness, fingers working through soil like awls -traces left on their hands clasping another's like a gift.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Getting Some Air

If someone told me two weeks ago, that I would host a radio show on poetry and prose, I would have humored their dillusion, then beat a retreat stage left. Well, whaddaya know? Here I am telling you that is exactly what I'm about to do. Things do get unexpectedly interesting, like a stone skipping downhill that hits one little twig along the way, changing its course entirely.

I had heard about a new community-oriented radio station here in Louisville, Kentucky, that they were looking for original material from poets and musicians. Wonderful! What a great concept. A local station that actually gives attention to local talent. We certainly have it in abundance. Why not have a one-hour show that spotlights our poets and writers? The station owner also thought why not, when I suggested the idea. So, here I am, gearing up to be a part of something wonderful in a way that I never would have thought so. I feel pretty danged lucky to paticipate in what I adore, what is creative, sharing it among other people who have fallen in love with words and stories. I am thrilled to get to spend time every week, hearing talented folk read and discuss the art of words. I hope you will be too.
As soon as we get are ready to air, which will be very soon, I'll make an announcement here.
Here's a link to the station: And for those not in the Louisville area, we do have live-streaming.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mudders and Others

Once a year, Louisville, Kentucky transforms into a raging center of celebrity, lunacy fermenting throughout the in-field of Churchill Downs and oozing into the city to give us locals an excuse for playing dodge-ball in Spaghetti Junction traffic, wearing nothing but UofL colors, the aroma of mint julips. But this year, the amount of rain falling like losing tickets from the Grandstand, has likely made mud-wrestling second only to The Kentucky Derby. Now granted, I wasn't there, but having been a time or two, I've seen, man, have I seen.
A couple of decades ago, when money was an endangered species and I was naive enough to trail it into hazardous regions, I worked as a security guard. One year, my post was at The KY Derby protecting vendors from theft, the tracks' interests against folks smuggling in their own liquid parties instead of buying over-priced beer. Like I said, I was naive.
I got to see the side-show for free- happy drunks flopping under their hats, hats created in the din of 3am, too early for reason to come strolling in at dawn. I watched train-wrecks teetering out of their flip-flops, cleavage smacking us all in the eye before passing out in the bean dip. Yum. But I was young and still saw the humor, at least to a degree.
The cherry on the day, was as I was leaving the track. Mistaken for a cop, a group of 2-3 young people rushed up to me, appearing relieved to have found me walking by. With much concern, they pointed to a port-a-potty set on a sidewalk, said that their friend was stuffed inside, passed out and stripped naked, and that I had to do something. Right. I peeked open the door and sure enough, there was a guy bare to the world except for his aroma. Lovely. Well, what was I going to do about it? Smile. That's all I could do. I had no authority for anything more than seeing the humor of it. The guy still had his brains pickling in his scull, no obvious wounds, friends right there to pack him home. Well, maybe. They didn't seem thrilled about doing so, and likely not without a ding or two. None of them seemed able to comprehend a straight line.
So, I left them to it. Finding a cop to report a robbery in this mess? Ha! Why do you think those kids were so relieved to see me? Yeah boys, sure, I'll call this in.

My last trip to the derby was in 1989, the year it friggin' snowed. Stuck outside along the back-side, cold beer and a wind chaser was the last straw. I didn't care much about betting, poofy hats and crowds sloshing beer onto my day. I'm sure that the perspective from Millionaire's Row is different, cushioned from the fray. But I'm much happier watching spring wake in the woods, rambling for blooms instead of running for roses.

Ditching School

She throws her shoes into the pond-
some fish can make better use of them-
runs across the meadow
soaking in dew filled with morning,
fat ovals of plantain
cooled by moon,
cozy rosetts of mullein
spread like bolts of felt,
nubs of fescue crackle under her strides
charging her to run
till the soles of her feet are stained green
and the earth has sealed itself
back onto its daughter.