what becomes precious

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One artifact that I brought out of childhood into my current age is a maple three drawer bureau. My parents took me to the furniture store, our first shopping expedition together. When they chose this bureau I was disappointed, but they bought it anyway. It reminded me of our well-worn maple kitchen table & chairs. In writing this, I realize it was only the second piece of furniture they bought together after they got bedroom furniture.  We were an immigrant family and lived in an extended household, so there was no ‘new flat’ to set up.

The bureau stayed with me for most of my life despite several attempts to offload it. It came back!  Underwear and pajamas in the top drawer, shirts, and pants in the second, and best clothes for special times in the bottom drawer. I’d hide poems I wrote from my mom under the paper lining in the drawers, and when she cleaned ( she must have been some cleaner) she’d find them, no matter which drawer they were hidden in.  

I got married when I was twenty-one years old and happily left this bureau behind.I was finally done with the purchase I had never wanted. Six years later I was pregnant and began to gather baby furniture. Aunt Delores gave me her no longer needed crib and an old carriage. I found a changing table someplace, and finally, I retrieved the old maple dresser, grudgingly. It was kind of a campy furniture piece by now, old-fashioned. But it was solid maple, and I found nothing that was constructed as well. I stocked baby clothes & diapers in it, put a small lamp & music box on the top. The baby, Jenny, learned how to crawl out of the crib onto the top of the bureau when she was two. She didn’t go far. Jenny just sat there waiting to be lifted off,  and I moved the bureau across the room.

A couple of years later my husband & I separated. When I ‘floated’ for some months looking for a place to live the bureau returned to its house of origin to be stored, right back to the same unused sun porch I used to sleep in. It remained there during the summer as I worked at several conference centers, and sought permanent work and housing. Finally, I found a regular job and a new home. We picked up the maple bureau and other furniture.  It became my daughter’s bureau then until she went away to college. It came back into my use then.

Now I admire how its made—solid wooden draws dovetailed together. It no longer holds clothes. Rather, it holds other necessary things. The top drawer holds checkbooks, extra pens, an extension cord, and office supplies. The second draw holds frankincense, myrrh, dragon’s blood, and similar chunks of incense, along with charcoal and a variety of candles. There’s also some organic tobacco and other items that might be handy for making ones own incense blend for some unusual reason,  pearls to be ground up, cornsilk, and such. There are quartz pebbles I’ve saved to make a set of rune stones. The last draw seems to be leftovers. Things that don’t fit into other categories, but are important enough to save even if I don’t remember what they are. This bureau lasted longer than anyone else I’ve lived with, has outlasted both my parents and has always accepted anything I’ve handed her without a comment.She now holds far more memories than all the clothes that were ever folded into the drawers.

This bureau stayed with me to childhood, adult life that included becoming homeless, divorced, moving to a different area, bringing up a child to adulthood. Until I wrote this piece, I hadn’t appreciated the constant presence it had in my life. Even when I had lost many belongings, this bureau kept returning.  I’d love to hear from folks that have had ‘accidental companions’ like this, some artifact that has stayed with you, and perhaps a paragraph about it.  For example,  when Dana was born, I gave him a snowman stuffed animal. When I spoke to Dana just before he went off to college this fall, I qas quite surprised to hear how precious that snowman was to him, and it still remains in his closet.  He shared that it’s one of his most precious things from childhood, and shared a story about it. I’d love to hear your stories, from all over the world.

 

 

 

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Mr. Rice’s Bull

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walking to Inishkeel at low tide

I’ve walked over to Inishkeel (Inis Caol) off the coast of Donegal Ireland when the tide is almost at its lowest. several times.  Each time,I read this sign and I imagine hopping over the wire fence. It looks so beautiful  ThenI wonder if there really is a huge bull on the other side.  I’m stopped by the story of Mr. Rice’s bull told to me by my dad. 

Mr. Rice was a farmer that kept a bull in a large field. One day a fellow was traipsing through the field to shorten his walk home and the bull charged him, tossing him up high in the air with his horns. The man didn’t live. I don’t if my father was a witness to the event or heard about it as a cautionary tale. I’ve been careful about bulls ever since I heard that story.  

On the Beara Peninsula, I climbed up long field strewn hill to a dolmen several times through the years.. Once I even rested atop the dolmen and fell asleep, dreaming. Several years ago I returned with a friend and we began the journey up the hill, following the marked trail. The furthest field held some cows that were so far away they looked the size of a smallest toe. But as soon as we got to the dolmen the cows trotted down with great purpose. They looked like a pack of kids looking for trouble. As they got closer they seemed to thunder and growl in a pack, led by a huge punk bull. 

I don’t know nothing of cow etiquette, so I  guessed. First I tried not looking at that bull in the eye. Then I turned away. It had no effect; he continued to glare aggressively. The other cows clearly seemed pleased with their leader and pushed forward aggressively, glaring at us with a cowish stare. 

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I had another idea, to become smaller, not worthy of notice. Thus I crept into the center of the now empty tomb, which was opened at both ends. I was hoping out of sight, out of mind.  Soon a great cow nose snuffled in to smell me. Then two cow heads, one at each end of the tomb, beheld me with curiosity. My friend remained outside and walked ten steps away clapping and shouting. That had the gang of bully cows back up a bit, and we began to walk back down to where the gate to the field was. Soon the cow gang was behind us, escorting us out of their territory. We kept a steady pace the whole way and didn’t breathe easy until we were out the field. I’ve heard, since then, that some other hikers had great difficulty with that bull.

So that is why, when I’ve been on this beautiful Island, far from West Cork and The Beara geographically, and far as eighty years perhaps from the time of Mr. Rice’s bull,   I always just look at the sign that says ‘Beware of Bull‘, never cross the short fence. Perhaps there’s nothing larger than a rabbit there, but I don’t want to take a chance.

The island has the remains of an old hermitage where Conall, the bishop that took over when Patrick died,  lived during the sixth century and is buried. Ruins & two medieval church remain. If you go, remember to keep your eyes for the tide to turn so you can safely return to the mainland. On the trip back to the mainland, the water was thigh deep. and came in fast.

 

 

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Good News

Friday Night I placed as the third winner in the Beal Poetry Competition in Massachusetts for a poem called Hye Holiday… and sorry, I can’t yet print it here as it hasn’t yet been published.

 

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the three winners

 

Today I also placed in the Hammond House International Literary Awards, 2018, for poetry.  They’ll be sending more information and giving general announcements next week.  This poem is also about Armenian culture, like the Hye Holiday poem. In the language, we call ourselves Hye, from Hyastan.  My family lived outside of Kharpet, in Eastern Turkey, before the genocide, and the survivors that were healthy enough moved to the United States.

Posted in Announcements, armenia, carpets, Hye, Hyaston, Poems, poetry | Tagged | 2 Comments

Conservatory Blooms

Each November Smith College in Northampton MA has a flower show. Just when all is muted brown and grey and branches are bare, and when soft fog rises from ponds and bogs to linger until late morning. These are the days one wishes to walk through rooms filled with the natural perfume of blooming flowers one last time before winter sets in.

Conservatory

 I’ve enjoyed these flowers in the hothouse, the last grand splashes of color before winter. The season to celebrate the return of the light is here. Diwali has passed. Soon it will be Chanukah. The Winter solstice and Christmas are less than a month away. It’s a time of mixed blessings, from meditations and prayer to family gatherings. I’m considering cutting down a small yule tree that grows in my yard.  In previous years I’ve decorated it outdoors with popcorn, bird food, and sparkly stars. What is it that’s important to you this season? What do you do to honor this season, and to honor your own spirit?

Best, Elaine

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22 Ways To Be a Good Literary Citizen Without Spending A Dime

This is a list of so many good ways to support each other!

The Sundress Blog

Want to be a good literary citizen? On a tight budget? At Sundress we came together to bring you 22 ways that you can be a good literary citizen–for free.

1. Attend free shows.

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Support your local poets by showing up to hear them read! Faces in the crowd are such an encouragement to a poet, especially if you approach them afterwards to let them know what you enjoyed about their reading. It is an easy way to become part of a community. Find events near you here: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/events or look up your local writing groups and libraries.

2. Trade books you have read for books you haven’t read: what better way to discover new literature than from other readers?

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Whether you get together with a few friends and trade paperbacks over a glass of wine, or hold an advertised community book exchange, this is a great way to refresh…

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Harry Clarke’s Stained Glass

The emblematic stained glass windows rise high in Bewley’s tea shop on Grafton Street. Larger than life framed inhabitants, created with colors that glow like emeralds, rubies, & sapphires, look down at the diners pouring pots of tea and spreading jam on scones.  The eyes and aliveness of the figures are what captures me.

The graceful people portrayed in the windows are part of a larger family of beings designed by Harry Clarke. Harry was a genius, a leader in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement.  There are his blue stained glass fairy tale like beings at the Hugh Lane National Gallery, there’s St Columba, St.Bridget,  St. Brenden and St. Patrick on display. More saintly beings are portrayed in windows of local Dublin churches like John’s Lane Church. The stained glass windows in Bewley’s Tea House are lovely in that one can just be a bit hungry or thirsty to find them.  One doesn’t need to be in the mood for a museum, gallery, or church visit. Clarke’s stained glass work is the finest accompaniment to any bit of food or prayer.  The forms rise up gracefully, firmly grounded in earth, their eyes glint & follow the observer. A dancing fairy like woman appears ready to walk out of the frame. The knight standing next to her, in armor with a long sword, is ready to defend. And he’s as handsome as she is winsome.

 What was it that Harry Clarke saw that other artists didn’t?  What is his story? How did he capture vibrancy of his subjects  in a way that reveals their life force ? How is it that Bridget seems to be caught in conversation with  St. Brenden over in the next window. Is she saying Ha, here I am, Goddess resurrected as saint, I do abide, Brenden. And Brenden, hero of traveling over high waves across the wild Atlantic to North America knows how to hold his tongue.

Brigid is still revered as a goddess of hearth and home, of light and strength. As a saint, she’s known as a miracle worker with the gift of blarney. They are proof of the strength of the oral tradition. The stories survived difficult centuries of time. The stories were told to me at bedtime, and now I introduce them to you. People still follow Columba’s paths in Donegal to meditate and pray. Women still journey to find Bridget’s wells and fires. Patrick is still in each shamrock, under all our feet as we wander. Below are two links to view some of Harry Clarke’s fine windows.

http://www.harryclarke.net/hugh_lane.ht

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-interior-of-bewleys-cafe-on-grafton-street-in-dublin

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Today

In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving today.  Blessing to all, wishes for warmth and safety, and prayers to All the Creation, especially in California.

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Sleep and stillness cling to my eyes.

morning light trickles through pine branches

into the kitchen where yeast has raised 

soft pillows of dough overnight.

I slide the fragrance of warm yeast

into the waiting oven.

I kept the fire going last night

to coddle the dough,

to be kind to myself.

Now I sit at the window as early fog lifts

in wisps and sip tea.

The world here is quiet, aside from

the faucet dripping and the ping of

the oven as it heats.

Strong tea mingles with the aroma of

rising dough.

Do we not all rise with some redemption,

new each morning?

In other homes people are moving toward family gatherings 

or waking to a jumble of legs and arms in unfamiliar beds

while I sit with my ancestors baking this bread.

I receive the old ones and the fragrance and the taste.

I listen to the small kitchen sounds against the quiet outside,-

the complete stillness of each branch and leaf,

the warm cup in my hand.

May you and yours be warm, even as the snow flies tonight.

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The Last Leaves

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The leaves have held on tighter and longer this year. Even some maples are still dressed. Perhaps the high amount of rain we’ve had has helped the  trees hold onto their leaves longer.  Moss Brookis overflowing now and the vernal pools are filled with water.  Mushrooms multiply on fallen oak logs, while kale and chard still stand in the garden.

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Two young rabbits continue to hop around the garden to find food and I worry about what they’ll do for food soon. Their fur has turned darker brown. The rabbits seem to enjoy the last weeds of this autumn more than my gifts of carrots and chard, no matter that they are fresh and organic. I wonder if cottontails can feel more life force in food that hasn’t been picked yet.

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Gathering Supper

 

For tonight Russian kale

picked at dusk 

sprinkled with pine needles

A little miso and wine

spill into the roasted squash

a little tipsy      all of us 

Outdoors next to the stream

shiitake filled oak logs pop 

like firecrackers now until frost

From the forest

to the skillet a sizzle of 

shiitake, butter, and garlic

Life dances from seed and spore

from fallen trees at forest edge

onto our table tonight

 

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November

 

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Scarecrows from Bernardston MA Scarecrow Festival.

 

November seems to descend from the heavens, dropping a curtain of longer twilight. November drops the curtain on color and light here in New England.  It’s dark by supper time, and still dark in the morning. The sun slants differently, with less warmth.  We know the period of darkness lengthens. Many of us wish to have more quiet time, more sipping hot drinks while working, more glancing out the windows as the last leaves flutter.

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Bernardston MA has their locally famous Scarecrows in the Park, and the last ones still stand across from Streeter’s General Store, celebrating the end of Autumn, and the beginning of an inner season.

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And so, an Ode to November, the beginning of a season that brings longer nights, cold, the community gathering for meals, and time for introspection.

November

Tail end of autumn

the in-between time

bare maples branches

dry leaves scuttle

 

 

A young bear pushes his nose

into heaped up leaves

poking through for acorns

coyotes howl late afternoon

 

 

Once twilight falls

barred owls call right 

up until bedtime

the eases into browns and greys

 

With scattered red berries

puckered purple grapes

winter hasn’t emerged yet

although she’s expected

 

Garden plots are cleared

in anticipation of  Winter’s arrival

like the tide line between sand and sea

November separates seasons

 

Of life pushing out of seed and egg

before returning to ground

waits for those last geese to fly

holds her cards close to her chest

 

Listen to the water ripple against the shore

and honor Manannán Mac Lir

I have not beaten gold into form

but I place an offering in the water

 

 

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This small golden boat was left as tribute toManannán Mac Lir.  It now resides in the National Museum of History & Archeology in Dublin rather than the lake it was found in.

 

While November marks for me a period of introspection,  of slowing down, and spending more time alone, I realize for other people who don’t live so closely tied to the land and season, there are other perspectives, people who live in other climates where growing doesn’t stop, or the warm season begins. What happens in November for you, where you are, that you welcome?

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