Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sundays in CinCity

still praying...

Hardware Sparrows

by R. T. Smith

Out for a deadbolt, light bulbs
and two-by-fours, I find a flock
of sparrows safe from hawks

and weather under the roof
of Lowe's amazing discount
store. They skitter from the racks

of stockpiled posts and hoses
to a spill of winter birdseed
on the concrete floor. How

they know to forage here,
I can't guess, but the automatic
door is close enough,

and we've had a week
of storms. They are, after all,
ubiquitous, though poor,

their only song an irritating
noise, and yet they soar
to offer, amid hardware, rope

and handyman brochures,
some relief, as if a flurry
of notes from Mozart swirled

from seed to ceiling, entreating
us to set aside our evening
chores and take grace where

we find it, saying it is possible,
even in this month of flood,
blackout and frustration,

to float once more on sheer
survival and the shadowy
bliss we exist to explore.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday in CinCity

Busy couple of weeks at Chez Distracted; nothing too full of importance, just a bunching up of annual ICU competency days and junior year meetings with HoneyHaired's high school college counselors. Monthly volunteer work. And ACLS--Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support which is required every two years. You'd think after this many years of critical care nursing performing in a cardiac arrest would be easy-peazy, but the trouble is they change the basics every two years. So, for old-timers it gets a bit like trying to remember the new name of that old store at 7th and Race, formerly known as Shillito's and now, who the hell knows.

Then there's the performance anxiety of trying to save ResusciAnnie through her several long and drawn out life-threatening calamities in front of folks watching you for mistakes. Not running in to help as in real life, but standing back and judging. The Simon Cowells of life savers, they are.

We have New Important Changes happening at Big Fat Teaching Hospital. A new dress code that, again, seems to happen every two years, because you can imagine how extremely, very important the color of our scrubs is to the ongoing welfare of healthcare. We are going to all black. I know. Such a cheerful color. Cannot imagine why we haven't done it before. Apparently the rationale is to align ourselves even more with the Big Fat University across the way. Being the selfless giver that I am, I have offered to additionally wear the mascot head. No response back yet from the Uppity-Ups. Perhaps they're saving that idea for Spirit Fridays.

OK. Enough snarkiness. Must study and put together some kind of dinner for my own significant otter tonight. Happy Weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Raven Days

by Andrew Hudgins

These are what my father calls
our raven days. The phrase is new
to me. I'm not sure what it means.
If it means we're hungry, it's right.
If it means we live on carrion,
it's right. It's also true
that every time we raise a voice
to sing, we make a caw and screech,
a raucous keening for the dead,
of whom we have more than our share.
But the raven's an ambiguous bird.
He forebodes death, and yet he fed
Elijah in the wilderness
and doing so fed all of us.
He knows his way around a desert
and a corpse, and these are useful skills.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


One of the Butterflies

by W. S. Merwin

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn to pain.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mission of Hope

Will post more later, just an update from an organization where another friend of mine is working.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Absolutely Love This Poem


by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Relief Work in Haiti

A friend of mine, Francoise, is from Haiti and what's left of her family is there. She's leaving sometime next week with a group of nursing/medical personnel through the help of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association. Any donations to this organization are welcome to get more nurses to Haiti. Also RAM--Remote Area Medical Volunteers-- is looking for anesthesiologists and CRNAs who can leave immediately for the Dominican Republic to assist in surgeries needed for the victims. Both have websites, are on FaceBook, and both are keeping a blog/journal.

I have no doubts that those who come to visit this blog send their prayers and love for Francoise and to all those she goes to help. Right now we're trying to get her shifts covered and work with the hospital to ensure a position for her when she returns. That may require an act of God.

National Nurses United

Remote Area Medical Volunteers

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday in CinCity


by Julie Cadwallader Staub

Who could need more proof than honey—

How the bees with such skill and purpose
enter flower after flower
sing their way home
to create and cap the new honey
just to get through the flowerless winter.

And how the bear with intention and cunning
raids the hive
shovels pawful after pawful into his happy mouth
bats away indignant bees
stumbles off in a stupor of satiation and stickiness.

And how we humans can't resist its viscosity
its taste of clover and wind
its metaphorical power:
don't we yearn for a land of milk and honey?
don't we call our loved ones "honey?"

all because bees just do, over and over again, what they were made to do.

Oh, who could need more proof than honey
to know that our world
was meant to be


was meant to be

A foggy morning in CinCity. Temperatures yesterday warmed into the 40's and any memories of The Snowstorm That Stopped a City are tucked in small white mounds under the pine trees in back of our house. They'll melt away today.

HoneyHaired Grrrl had her wisdom teeth taken out yesterday. She's still sleeping it off on the couch in the living room, the dog and one cat at her side. Plenty of ice cream in the freezer, smoothies and pasta in the fridge, but of course, all she can think about now is Real Food. Too bad, so sad. Soft food it is.

We went to a meeting at her high school last Tuesday for college admission info. The cratering economy has changed the rules of that game. Less money available and less spots to what had been easybreezy admissions to public colleges. The air in the classroom was thick with tension--like musical chairs down to the last three seats. Had I known I would have taken a little Pepcid beforehand.
And a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

HoneyHaired has been talking about taking a Gap Year and I've listened to her with the same serious attention as when she said she was going to school in California and would be taking a Greyhound bus back and forth for her winter and spring breaks.
But, Hubby has long been a supporter of taking a year off, and now I'm starting to see some merits in the idea. To be further investigated...

CollegeGrrrl had her first motor vehicle collision, also on Tuesday. Nobody hurt, except her car, which needs a facelift. Might be the perfect accident to make her realize there are bad drivers on the road who make unexpected manuevers and she should slowthehelldown and notfollowsodamnclose. But, what do I know??, I'monlyhermother.

The unit's been full to the brim with a waiting list for available beds. Lots of falls these last two weeks, and none snow related. It seems that when you get older, you fall down a lot. That doesn't bode well at home with a dog who sneaks up behind me while I'm at the sink or putting away clothes. I would say he's underfoot, but the boy comes up to my knees. He may have put out a life insurance policy on me.

Whatever happened to the promises in our youth of modern architecture? There was no place to fall in Jane Jetson's home.
Happy Saturday:>)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

please note: art by Frederick Childe Hassam

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lester Tells of Wanda and the Big Snow

by Paul Zimmer

Some years back I worked a strip mine
Out near Tylersburg. One day it starts
To snow and by two we got three feet.
I says to the foreman, "I'm going home."
He says, "Ain't you stayin' till five?"
I says, "I got to see to my cows,"
Not telling how Wanda was there at the house.
By the time I make it home at four
Another foot is down and it don't quit
Until it lays another. Wanda and me
For three whole days seen no one else.
We tunneled the drifts and slid
Right over the barbed wire, laughing
At how our heartbeats melted the snow.
After a time the food was gone and I thought
I'd butcher a cow, but then it cleared
And the moon come up as sweet as an apple.
Next morning the ploughs got through. It made us sad.
It don't snow like that no more. Too bad.

please note: photo by Nathaniel W. Casey

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Poems

by Vera Pavlova
and translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour


Why is the word yes so brief?
It should be
the longest,
the hardest,
so that you could not decide in an instant to say it,
so that upon reflection you could stop
in the middle of saying it


I think it will be winter when he comes.
From the unbearable whiteness of the road
a dot will emerge, so black that eyes will blur,
and it will be approaching for a long, long time,
making his absence commensurate with his coming,
and for a long, long time it will remain a dot.
A speck of dust? A burning in the eye? And snow,
there will be nothing else but snow,
and for a long, long while there will be nothing,
and he will pull away the snowy curtain,
he will acquire size and three dimensions,
he will keep coming closer, closer ...
This is the limit, he cannot get closer. But he keeps approaching,
now too vast to measure ...

please note: photo by Candace Dwan

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You Two?

by Tom Healy

We offer in evidence
our grocery list—

its crabbed scribbled
archeology of hunger

shorthand reckoning
of how we've settled

whether the week

augured skim milk
or vodka

cantaloupe or ice cream
little proclamations

smudged on the back
of an envelope

his marks and mine
a currency

the exchange of whim
and sustenance

an account not just
of comfort and ordinary

cravings but how
we've construed

the necessities
of rescue and surrender

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Snowy Saturday in CinCity

Hubby's up and off for work today. I think I might have awakened early anyway. It was one of those mornings when the worries of life come jumping on the bed demanding a little tickle and attention. You know...the dentist bill, the paperwork for that damn committee at work, why is my head still hurting, what if I lose my job, how can I help CollegeGrrrrl with tuition, what to cook for dinner??? None of which are easily, or best, answered at four o'clock in the morning.

Thankfully, there's the blogosphere. From mon ami with her spit and baling wire I found a book on transitions, and from Miss Lydia at Writerquake and her friend, Valerie Walsh, and her friend, David Tobocman, I found this--

--exactly what was needed with a snoozing cat at my feet, a snoring dog on the floor, a warm cup of coffee beside me and a lighted page of words on my lap. The sun is out now. I believe there might be some homemade pizza for dinner and a George Clooney movie for lunch.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Journey

by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

small, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

please note: art by Tobin Rogers at

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Looking at Pictures to Be Put Away

by Gary Snyder

Who was this girl
In her white night gown
Clutching a pair of jeans

On a foggy redwood deck.
She looks up at me tender,
Calm, surprised,

What will we remember
Bodied thick with food and lovers
After twenty years.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I believe I've written about this before, especially since I see I have a tag labeled "Kairos vs Chronos," but the topic has come up again at work over the last few weeks. Illness and death are devastating at any time, particularly poignant over a holiday. A car accident with traumatic brain injury and death on Thanksgiving takes on more baggage than had it been on a Thursday evening in the middle of August. Forever in the minds of those that remember, that death will be associated with Thanksgiving and grief will add another layer to the day. But really, don't we still associate the major events of our lives by the calendar divisions we've imposed on time? And, won't grief have a place at the table on Thanksgiving no matter when the accident occurred?

My daughter was born a week before Halloween. My mother-in-law died the Sunday before Mother's Day, my brother on Memorial Day weekend. We use holiday celebratory events as markers to divide the long, rolling expanse of time into bite-size morsels in order to make sense of it in our human sized brains.

We presently have a patient in our unit, an older gentleman, who while tinkering in the garage workshop he loved had the worst headache of his life preceding a large bleed in his brain and has profound damage to all the areas that allow him to interact with the world. The family agrees he would not want to live like this, nor would he want to be sustained in the shell of his body in a nursing home. They agree on hospice care. What they cannot do is to turn the case over to hospice due first to the new year, then a family member's birthday and not wanting Grandpa's death to taint the memory of those days.

The definition I found of Kairos is "a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens." Coming from the perspective of Catholic school education I understand it to be God's time. I see it in my mind as the road you see running alongside the expressway, parallel, but never intersecting, its inhabitants moving at at separate speed to a separate destination yet both roads in full view of one another.

I remain amazed that we as humans feel we really have any control over time other than making marks with colored pens in black outlined boxes on the surface of a calendar. And yet, we do. It's a bit like putting a fence up in the desert, but it does keep us busy sweeping.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good God

by Mark Jarman

Instead of casting them out of paradise,
Instead of making them labor in pain and sweat,
Instead of instilling tristesse after coitus,
Instead of giving them fire to burn their house down

And light their way into the outer world,

He could have split them, each with a memory of the other,
And put them each into a separate world.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh

by Mary Oliver

All winter
two blue herons
hunkered in the frozen marsh,
like two columns of blue smoke.

What they ate
I can't imagine,
unless it was the small laces
of snow that settled

in the ruckus of the cattails,
or the glazed windows of ice
under the tired
pitchforks of their feet—

so the answer is
they ate nothing,
and nothing good could come of that.
They were mired in nature, and starving.

Still, every morning
they shrugged the rime from their shoulders,
and all day they
stood to attention

in the stubbled desolation.
I was filled with admiration,
and, of course, empathy.

It called for a miracle.
Finally the marsh softened,
and their wings cranked open
revealing the old blue light,

so that I thought: how could this possibly be
the blunt, dark finish?
First one, then the other, vanished
into the ditches and upheavals.

All spring, I watched the rising blue-green grass,
above its gleaming and substantial shadows,
toss in the breeze,
like wings.