Discover more from The PoetOwl
Let's sit in our darkness together, okay?
Journal | Ending 2022 & Beginning 2023
For those new to this e-community, I offer my readers snippets from my daily writing (tidied up a bit ;-) With holidays, earthquakes, a string of wild storms & power outages, and life eddies, The PoetOwl took a pause. Sharing here three journal pieces.
December 17, 2022 | Saturday
Calm between two storms. So, I’m on the roof, in the partial shadows of redwoods, second or third growth, climbing fast into the high air, which is blue today.
I’m a roof lover. Up here, I see far, feel free, and it’s true, a tiny bit brave.
I’m above. I’m peering down on the backs of hummingbirds and jays and low-cruising ravens, watching the way their birdy shoulders maneuver wings, how with each flap and pivot, light shifts and flashes within their feathers.
I’m remembering how each of us is luminous, is light.
Why am I here? Okay, not the big why. Yet, maybe all the little whys together are the big why. What I know is sometimes the wind is a comb, detangling tree crowns and branches, then the rain comes as a scouring river. My roof is where the debris land.
Instead of the stray brown and grey strands my comb drops on my collar, up here are clots of what my neighbor K calls redwood feathers, the needled leaves that, once dead and dropped, do look like rusty-brown feathers. They gather in the valleys of roof lines or snag in green bubbles of moss forming around shingles.
Splintered limbs seem like living limbs, curved woody arms reaching up. Are they trying to get back to their tree-bodies? “Namaste, fallen one,” I say, dragging and dropping each to the driveway. Clearing, sweeping, raking, whisking it all off the roof with an electric blower, feels useful.
Each footstep is buoyant and crusty sounding. There’s a beach on my house! No, not sand, just roof grit. Still, five miles from the Pacific, I breathe in sea stuff—salty air, wet shells, stranded kelp, harbor seals, their breath surely plume-y in the cold shoreline mist.
A thermal cup bearing a caribou, cranberries and ferns caught in her antlers, steams with cinnamon tea. Settling on the highest peak—now my house is a mountain!—I sit and look and sip.
Redwood- and spruce-covered ridges, one beyond another, are a visual echo. The cup in my ungloved hands is warm, the tea scent turns spicy on my tongue, the Pacific tide churns and thrums unseen, the air that was chilly feels good on my body now flexed and well used.
There’s so much I tell no one. What can I tell? Here, now, is happy.
Noticing my jeans and bottom getting soggy, there’s a reactive frown, then I let that reality go to focus on the yellow bird that is the winter sun perched low in my neighbor’s trees.
The caribou is content, the roof-cleaner tranquil, the moment still and moving forward. There is nothing else to do but go with it.
December 20, 2022 | Tuesday
A 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Humboldt County, California, at 2:34 a.m., followed by aftershocks in the hours and days afterward. While minimal damage for most, some closest to the epicenter have been left without habitable homes.
Picking up daggers of glass, then pebbles of glass, my pulse quick, I’m lightheaded with an adrenaline high. Pause, my body says, and I do.
In the light of a lantern, I look at scattered glass, some perhaps 100 years old.
From a small cut on a finger, my blood is a red pearl. On one big wedge of picture glass, I paint what I want, two drops for eyes, a smeared smile.
The girl and the dog in the old hand-tinted image are long gone, yet here with me, quiet witnesses, released from their frame.
The mind says, Back to normal, and quickly please.
The contrarian heart says, Be here in this this shadowy broken light. I have something for you.
Not yet 3 a.m. Power out. The cats are two balls of puffed-out fur and feline fear, safe beneath the daybed.
My husband in his suede slippers shuffles about the house half asleep, dazed, his voice wandering from room to room, saying, “I think we had an earthquake.” A few more steps, shush, shush, shush. “Yes, we had quite an earthquake.”
His tone is a mix of human-aftershock and calm scientific curiosity. I watch him examine a ceramic owl with his flashlight—little bird survived its flight to the floor. He puts it on a shelf, adjusting its beak, its artsy facial disc toward another owl, as if they might console one another.
Then his pragmatism wakes. “Got to turn off the propane tank,” he murmurs, mostly to himself. Shush, shush, shush, as he heads to the back door.
Later he’ll remember little of this moment, other than being awakened by a hefty quake. When you are a wife and a caregiver, you are also a memory-holder and a storyteller.
I look back down at the smiling glass, the two red drips and crooked grin, dust happily disturbed, waiting for the face to tell me a story.
Red is love, is life, is fury and energy, is the primal instinct to survive.
Lifting the jagged fragment to put it with the other shards in a plastic can, I look through to the other side. A tumble of stuff.
There’s a clump of books—poetry, raven stories, a thick volume about the mind with an illustration of a man in a top hat, a green apple blocking his face. Okay, universe, are you suggesting my reading list?
Nearby, from my time in rural Brazil with a humanitarian NGO, a clay mother & child figurine stands whole and peaceful.
Owl and pussycat finger puppets, gifts from sweet-funny J, are close as a couple.
The woodpecker my husband carved is broken loose from its base. Mind whispers, wounded, looking at the crimson head patch, then, No, just a species trait.
One amethyst geode exposes it’s inner purple and a stone fossil shows off its shell prints.
Black bobble-head bear is slightly nodding. “Do you hear quake music?” I ask. On a snowy day, he came as a surprise from a friend who months later took her own life.
The red-wool Santa with fancy mink collar lies on his pudgy side—my mother made him from old clothes scavenged from garage sales.
Three feathers commingle: one jay, two turkey. Also a 20-inch quill from the huge porcupine we met in the Kalahari.
A dull shine, and I see the brass plaque with Chinese characters given to my father for helping Taiwan’s navy in 1964, the year after the fire that took my sisters. Needs polishing, I think. Then, an inner flash, other pebbles of flying glass, my father’s bare fist punching through a window, pulling toddler-me from the burning room. Love you, Daddy.
This is my life, told in odd little things.
Thank you, earthquake, for your rattling reminders.
Thank you, hidden heart, still drumming along.
January 4 | Wednesday
Waking into true darkness. All the tiny yellow or orange or green electric eyes of plugged-in devices that usually watch us sleep, that always seem obtrusive and wasteful, are gone.
We’re powerless, again. I’m smiling, anyway.
Outside the wind is fierce. As if our house is a lung, the wind sucks at the windows that creak out and back in. Subtle-swift currents of air scuttle along the floor, around my bare feet, touching down, feeling around for slippers.
We are part of some enormous breathing. So, there is no real powerless.
No rain, though even inside, I can smell it on the way. Wrapping a hand-knit scarf around my neck, I feel my faraway friend M, who made it, suddenly close by, imagining her hugging her big Parti poodle. Purples, greens, flecks of yellow yarns, I think earth and sky, then chakras and energy, then glancing East, love you, dear one.
Stepping out strikes me as stepping in. Pelted by a redwood cone, I stand in the dim bluster, hair gone wild and flailing, cheeks prickling with bits of dust and detritus.
Flipping on a flashlight, redwood debris everywhere and deck chairs fallen forward, submissive. Tree crowns and branches twist and whip. A frond of sword fern spirals up and up—little green tornado.
Turning the flashlight off and closing my eyes, I aim my face into the turbulent gusts. Be in this, explore this.
For a moment, I relive another’s voice sobbing on the phone. “The losses have come, wave after wave,” she’s saying. “It’s like a storm I can’t escape.”
What did I say? Something helpful I hope. I remember thinking, What you escape will want to pursue you. But that seemed too Rumi-esque or philosophical for someone suffering.
What matters most is listening, witnessing, letting hurt beings know you see them, you’re with them.
I keep in mind what Pema Chödrön, Buddhist nun, once said in a virtual workshop, “Compassion is knowing your own darkness well enough you can sit in the darkness with others.”
My darkness? It’s taught me that sometimes you just have to step into the storm and stand there. Feel it, get curious about it, let it be, let it in, live through it to live beyond it.
We forget how the moment we are born, we are dying. Cells come and go, ephemeral. Yet somewhere, bone-deep, joy endures.
Babies are wise beings, intuitively understanding this. They’re all about being and wondering, touching and tasting, trying to reach their own miraculous toes and seductive cat tails, rarely lingering long in tears.
What baby lives with regret or worry? Longing comes much later.
For a moment, I consider crawling on the deck, practicing my baby wisdom, but I don’t want cut knees. Instead, I take to a bench with peachy tea and let the dawn arrive, listening to the base-toned rumbles of big gusts approaching, watching the whirling world, the first reality show.
Two ravens fly over, banking and swerving, the wind pulling hard at their wings. Good you have each other.
The dense silvery sky makes their blackness bright. Suddenly they part ways, each in a different direction, struggling, swooping, riding their own rough current, going on, shrinking into sky until gone. Good you had each other.