Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cherry Orchard

These trees, frantic with their fiery leaves
Were only a few months ago heavy with cherries
Bing, and Rainier, and Royal Ann
Hanging like holiday ornaments on their limbs

We filled our buckets with their treasure
Sampling as we went, juice running down our chin
Spitting the pits as far as we could

And made love there in the grass
Under a canopy of cherries
Your shirt was covered with burgundy spots
You said the stain would never come out

It never has
As many times as I’ve washed and worn it
As I wear it on this Fall day
Walking in the orchard

Their branches bend towards me
As I walk beneath them
These trees, frantic with their fiery leaves
I think they know me


Photo taken in Kennewick, WA, Oct 08

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Wind in the Trees

“Come on, Ricky. We’re going for a ride!” Ricky heard his mother call from the kitchen.
Good! Ricky thought. He was tired of playing with his cars and trucks and tractors and trains. He’d run out of ways to have them crash, anyway.
Ricky’s mother appeared in the den and Ricky looked up to see her smiling at him. He pushed himself up from the floor and ran over to her for a hug.
“There’s my big boy,” his mother said. “Here, put on your coat.”
“Don’t need it,” Ricky said and pulled away.
“Come on now, honey. It’s cold outside. We don’t want you catching cold.”
Ricky looked at his mom while she struggled to get him into his coat without any help from him.
Doesn’t look cold, he thought, seeing the sun streaming in the window.
“How do you catch it?” he asked his mother.
“Catch what?” she answered, taking his hand and starting for the door.
“Cold,” he said, but his mother wasn’t listening. She was rummaging around in her purse like she always did just before going out the door.
Ricky stood on the front porch waiting for his mom to lock the door. It was cold, even though the sun was shining. The wind was making a whooshing sound in the trees, and red and yellow leaves were skittering across the lawn. Something white flew up towards the porch making a crackling sound and Ricky backed up into his mother and reached for her hand.
“Okay, honey, here we go,” his mother said.
Ricky watched the white thing settle back on the front walk. It was just an old newspaper.
Ricky crawled into the back seat and up into what his mom called his ‘special seat.’
“Aren’t you a good boy,” his mom said.
And I’m a good climber, Ricky thought.
“Here we go,” said his mom, backing out of the driveway.


As they drove off Ricky noticed that the neighbors had big orange pumpkins on their porches and steps, just like the one they had on their porch. But he and his dad had made their pumpkin smile. Some of the pumpkins Ricky saw as they drove along had scary faces. He didn’t like that.
“There’s a bull yard stop,” Ricky said, pointing to a round, red sign on the corner as his mother slowed and stopped.
“I see it,” she said, looking to one side and then the other before she started going again.
As they drove through the intersection Ricky looked at a house on the opposite corner and gasped. There was a ghost standing right in the middle of the lawn waving its arms and swaying back and forth. Ricky wanted to tell his mom, but he was so scared he couldn’t say anything. He turned his head as far around as he could and watched the ghost disappear behind them. Ricky wondered how his mother could have missed it, but then he remembered how she was always saying, ‘Darn, I missed my turn,’ so maybe her eyes weren’t as good as his.
“Here we are,” his mom said, as she parked the car next to a big grey and green building. There were lots of cars parked next to the building and Ricky’s mom held tight to his hand as they threaded their way through the cars and across the parking lot to the building’s entrance.
Ricky was startled by a loud cackling and looked up to see three black crows hopping along the fence next to the walk. They looked like little magicians to Ricky and he watched them carefully to see what tricks they might have up their sleeves.


When they got in the building, Ricky’s mom stopped to look around. Ricky looked around, too.
Ricky pulled on his mom’s hand to get her attention. “Mom, Mom, this supermarket doesn’t have any food,” he said to her.
“Oh, honey,” she said glancing at him, “This isn’t the supermarket. This is the Health Department.”
Ricky squinted his eyes and looked around again. He’d heard the word ‘health’ before and it seemed to him that he didn’t always like what was connected with that word, like broccoli, for example.
Ricky’s mom seemed to figure out what she wanted, turned and started walking down a hall. It seemed to Ricky as if it were getting darker the further they went. He looked up at his mom to make sure she knew what she was doing. There were signs with arrows pointing the way and she followed the signs, so Ricky figured she did.
Finally, they came to a room where a lot of people stood in line. Ricky and his mom got in line behind them. Ricky looked up at the person in front of them. It was a woman wearing a long, black coat, a thick scarf, and a knitted, wool hat. Ricky tried to see her face, but her back was turned. He did see her hands. They had, long, red nails. She could be a witch, Ricky thought. He squeezed his mother’s hand. She looked down and smiled at him.
Ricky was restless. He was about to tell his mother that he wanted to go home, when he heard a clack, creak, clack, creak coming up behind them. He jerked around and saw an old man shuffling towards them. He was using what looked like a cane, but Ricky looked closer and saw that the foot of the cane had claws. Ricky scooted up as close as he could get to his mom. He said, “Mom?”
“Yes dear,” she said.
But Ricky couldn’t say anything because the man with the claw foot was standing right next to them. The man saw Ricky staring at him and smiled. Ricky hid his face in the folds of his mother’s dress.
Finally, he and his mother were shown to a room off to the side. There was a man standing there next to the room. He was carrying a bag with a bottle in it. Tubes went from the bottle up to the man’s nose. Ricky pulled on his mother’s hand. “Mom, why does that man have tubes in his nose,” he whispered.
“That’s oxygen,” she whispered back. “He needs it to help him breathe.”
Help him breathe? thought Ricky. He must be an alien.
He was about to ask his mother if the man was a dangerous alien when she said, “Okay, Hon, it’s our turn,” and led him into the room.


There was a woman in a clean, white dress in the room. She had on a white hat. Ricky pulled down on his mother’s hand. “Who’s that?” he asked.
“That’s the LPN,” said Ricky’s mom.
Ricky had no idea what an ‘Elf Peon’ was, but he didn’t like the look of her.
The Elf Peon was sitting at a small table. It had little bottles and little plastic packages on it. There was something about it that made Ricky squirmy. He scrunched up close to his mom and said, “Mommy, I wanna go home.”
Ricky’s mother leaned over, took Ricky by the shoulders, and said, “We’re going to get flu shots, Honey, so we don’t get sick this winter.”
“I don’t wanna flew shot,” Ricky said, glancing at the nurse woman.
She smiled at Ricky and said, “Don’t you want to show your mommy what a brave boy you are?”
“No,” Ricky said, looking at his feet.
“Come on now, Honey. It’s just a little stick. It won’t hurt,” his mother said.
“Yes it will,” said Ricky, reflexively rubbing his upper arm where he remembered getting the shot for something called chicken pockets.
“You get it for me,” Ricky told his mother.
“I already had mine, Honey.”
Ricky’s mom pushed Ricky towards the nurse and he saw that she already had a sticker thing in her hand.
“Which arm do you want to give me?” asked the nurse.
Ricky’s eyes went wide and his mouth fell open. She wants one of my arms? He wanted to keep both his arms so he could drive a truck when he grew up.
“Here, let’s do the left arm,” said his mother.
Ricky wanted to squeeze his eyes shut, but he was afraid of what the nurse might do to him if he wasn’t looking, so he turned his head away and looked at her sideways.
The nurse pinched his arm, but she wasn’t very good at it and it didn’t hurt any where near as much as when Lizbeth Dowdy did it at preschool.
“There we are. You’re all through,” said the nurse.
A sense of relief washed over Ricky. It was over, it didn’t hurt – not much -- and he hadn’t even cried. He felt very brave.
“Here you are young man,” said the nurse, and handed Ricky a lollipop. “I bet you’ll get more candy when you go out trick or treating later,” she said.
Trick or treating, thought Ricky. I forgot all about that. And he smiled.
“Can we go home now, Mommy? Ricky said.


Outside, Ricky noticed that it had gotten cloudy and it felt colder. He was happy to get in the car, climb into his special seat, and have his mom put a blanket on his lap. He felt a little tired. He must have dozed, because the next thing he knew, his mom was slowing to make the bull yard stop and turning onto their street. Ricky noticed that the ghost wasn’t on the neighbor’s lawn anymore.
“How about a little nap, then you can put your costume on,” said Ricky’s mom. Ricky didn’t argue.
“Want me to carry you?” Asked his mom.
“I can do it,” Ricky answered. He was feeling pretty grown up after what he’d been through. He held his mother’s hand and trudged up the stairs to his bedroom.
Ricky climbed in his bed. His mother removed his shoes and pulled his blanket up to his chin. She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She felt warm and soft and he liked the way she smelled.
Outside Ricky’s window three miniature magicians – about the size of crows – sat on a tree limb watching Ricky’s mom tuck the boy in for his nap and waiting for her to leave. The ghost, the witch in black, the claw-foot man, and the alien waited below for the magician’s signal. You could just hear the alien’s raspy breathing over the sound of the wind whistling in the trees.
Ricky chuckled softly as he drifted off to sleep. Boy, would they be scared when they saw him in his skeleton costume, he thought.

The End

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thomas the Spy Cat and the Case of the Funerary Flower Thief

The Mission Begins

Thomas loped like a cat across the frosty field, darting between sagebrush and tumbleweed, keeping his green eyes peeled. On the lookout Thomas was, and why not? For he was hot on the trail of a rascal and a thief. Oh yes, there was mischief afoot, and a good deal of grief. Thomas was in his prowling mode, heading towards the stone gate on Cemetery Road.

Thomas could lope like a cat because he was a cat. Not a big cat, like a lion or a tiger, but large for his species, which was House. Thomas was a House Cat. But not just any house cat. Thomas was a spy cat, and he was out on this cold October night to carry out a spy mission. What mission, you ask? A mission to discover the identity of the infamous Funerary Flower Thief! The FFT, for short, or as Thomas said, the “phfft.”

Thomas stopped at the old stone gate. He thought I’d better hesitate. Alert to every move and sound he looked around, first to the right, and then to the left, and then to the sky, and then to the ground -- up into the bare branches of trees hulking overhead, and down at the grey, gravel path upon which his four feet tread. Satisfied that the coast was clearly clear, Thomas the spy cat thought, I have nothing to fear, and padded softly on his furry paws through the stone gate that looked like a giant’s jaws.

The Spy Cat Spying

A full moon hung in the darkening sky, melting mysteriously among the hovering clouds. A chill wind moaned with a mournful sigh, scattering the dry leaves that laid like shrouds across clustered graves.

Thomas stopped beside a looming gravestone and sniffed the air. “Whooo,” came a voice from somewhere high above and Thomas crouched, cat like (because, remember, he was a cat), beneath the red leaves of a spiny Barberry bush. “Whoo,” came the cry again. And then, whoosh, above his head flew a great white owl. You have to be careful when you’re out on the prowl!

A great, dark cloud moved across the moon, and Thomas thought, It’s not too soon. The flower thief might be here now. He moved beneath a low hanging bough where unobserved he could observe, a new grave. A simple marble memorial stone engraved with R.I.P stood at the head of the grave, and there by the stone were fresh flowers fittingly placed by family members in remembrance of their dear departed.

Thomas settled down to wait and watch. He placed his front feet out in front, with his white paws poised to leap, and his back feet under his russet rump, with his white paws poised to jump, and he let his long, and furry tail lay out behind, and he kept it there, unconfined, so just its tip could twitch and switch. And Thomas waited there like that – the watchful, wary, sly spy cat.

The Villain Captured

Thomas thought about his quest. Who was the culprit stealing flowers meant for dear ones laid to rest? Who would do this, Thomas wondered, all these grave adornments plundered?

He listened closely. Heard a rustle. Something moving in the leaves. Are those the sounds of flower thieves? Thomas tensed his every muscle, ready to leap, to pounce, to tussle. What’s behind that bush, that bower? Something’s pulling on that flower! I think I’d better try and grab it! And Thomas jumped upon a… a rabbit. “Hey, that’s not funny,” said the fuzzy, soft brown bunny.
It squirmed, and writhed, and wriggled. “I’m just here to have a snack. Why did you give me such a whack?”
“Why, why? I’ll tell you why,” said Thomas. “You’re stealing flowers from a grave. Is that the way one should behave?”
The bunny said, “I have to eat! I thought they were a lovely treat. Now let me up. Don’t be so silly. Let me go and eat my lily.”
“Those flowers aren’t for you,” the spy cat said. “They’re there in honor of the dead. You can’t eat them, silly bunny.”
The bunny stopped its wriggling and suddenly started giggling.
“Well, I don’t eat the whole, darn wreath; a flower here, a flower there. Do the dear departed care?”
Thomas gave the hare a glare, green eyes flashing, cat teeth gnashing. “The families care you little thief. If you don’t stop, I’ll give you grief!”
“Okay, alright, I will agree,” the bunny said, “But set me free.”
“And do you promise not to eat the lilies, roses, or carnations?”
“Yes, I promise,” said the naughty little rabbit. “I will break my eating habit. From now on I won’t eat much, just some greens and roots and such, and perhaps a few impatiens.”
So Thomas set the bunny free.
And off the little rabbit hopped, his rabbit paws going thwop, thwop, thwop.

A Frightening Night

Thomas sat and watched the rabbit disappear across the grass and through the bushes. Then he rose and padded softly through the cemetery and out the stone gate, back down Cemetery Road, back across the frosty field, towards home. Mission accomplished, he thought.

As he turned and headed down the block, he saw a shadow dart across the street, and then another. Thomas jumped into the bushes and hunkered down. What was that! And then he saw it. Some wispy, white thing floating furtively down the street followed by another frightening apparition dressed in black. Thomas leaped up and raced across the lawns of neighbor’s homes until he slid to a sudden stop at his own front door. He gave the signal for the door to be opened, “Meow, meow,” he said, glancing frantically down the block where shapes too gruesome to contemplate came closer.

Finally, the door opened. His mistress stood there peering down at him.
“Why Thomas Cat, where have you been? It’s cold outside. You must come in!” And Thomas dashed right through the door and slid across the hardwood floor.
“Why what’s the matter, you silly cat?” His mistress said, just like that.
How could she know that just outside, witches on their broomsticks ride?

Feeling safer now, Thomas tried to look nonchalant. He decided to wash up a bit. He lifted a paw and with his rough, pink tongue began to clean it. I’ll neaten up, and then have a bite to eat, thought Thomas.

Just then there was a fearsome banging on the door. Thomas leaped high into the air and ran and hid beneath a chair. He saw his mistress move towards the door. NO! Don’t open it! Thomas thought, but all he could say was “Meow!”

The mistress reached out and took the door handle in her hand and Thomas heard the click of the latch unlatching. She’s going to let them in, he thought, those scary ghosts and goblins. Thomas, the spy cat, sat trembling under the chair too frightened to retreat. He heard the door swing open, the sound of shuffling feet, and then the happy shouts of
“Trick or treat! Trick or treat!”


The cat in the picture is Thomas Samuel Katt. He came to Kennewick in the back of a moving van and adopted my father, who suggested that Thomas would be happier with us, where he is now. The graveyard pictured is in Ireland somewhere out on the windswept moors. The bunny lives at Cannon Beach, Oregon, at a lodge in Ecola State Park. The boy trick or treating is Logan Matthew, our 3 year-old grandson.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Apple Harvest

These are Pink Lady apples growing in Kennewick, Washington. They are a sweet, crisp, delicious apple. Best for eating right off the tree. For pies, use Granny Smith apples (I just gleaned a big bucket of 'em).

Apple Pie Recipe

pastry for 9-inch double crust pie
6 cups thinly sliced and peeled Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces
Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Mix next 8 ingredients and fill pie shell, laying apple slices flat. Dot with the butter. Roll out top crust and cut slits in several places for steam to escape. Moisten edges of crust well with cold water and adjust top crust. With fingers or fork, pinch two crusts together to make a tight seal around pie. Sprinkle a little sugar on top of pie. Bake at 450° 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake 45 to 50 minutes longer.


And here's the pie, right out of the oven. Want a slice?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Through the druid trees

A song floating out across
the stillness of an Autumn's eve
Sadly sung
and suddenly gone

I grieve

The wind whispers to me
through the druid trees
Like a lover sadly sighing

How lonely you will be
How lonely you will be

And even the stars are crying

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.

H.P. Lovecraft


Photos taken at Cannon Beach, OR, Oct 08

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dark Forest

The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own.

Willa Cather

This is what I believe: that I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go.

D.H. Lawrence


Photo take on Oregon Coast, Oct 08

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tangled Thoughts

I took this photograph during a hike in Ecola State Park on the Oregon Coast. The tangle of vines and roots reminded me of representations of the brain's neural networks.

From "The Brain: Understanding neurobiology," NIH. The brain of an adult human weighs about 3 pounds and contains billions of cells. The two distinct classes of cells in the nervous system are neurons (nerve cells) and glia (glial cells). The basic signaling unit of the nervous system is the neuron. The brain contains billions of neurons; the best estimates are that the adult human brain contains 10 to the 11th neurons. The interactions between neurons enable people to think, move, maintain homeostasis, and feel emotions. A neuron is a specialized cell that can produce different actions because of its precise connections with other neurons, sensory receptors, and muscle cells. A typical neuron has four morphologically defined regions: the cell body, dendrites, axons, and presynaptic terminals.

But how to explain our emotions; falling in love, joy in the birth of a child, the pain of loss? Glia, neurons, synapses? Or something more? An intangible humanity, unknowable, ethereal, and eternal.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Autumn Thoughts

Rabbitbrush is everywhere in bloom
Painting the shrub-steppe gold
Bright against the drab green and gray of sage
and the silvery leaves of Russian Olive

Just ahead, cottonwoods, willows, and cattails
Weave along the edges of the prairie
Revealing a creek that meanders
Toward a mown alfalfa field

Brown and orange and yellow leaves
Layer the lazy water that pools and puddles
In shallow depressions along the creek bed
Where patches of blue sky dot the algae

Black birds fly from the trees like
Flurries of guilty thoughts
An unburdening taking wing
And fluttering off to gun gray skies

I crossed the creek a long walk ago
Where ruined logs made a bridge
Now I look in vain for another crossing
Here, where I have strayed

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red

O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red.

Percy Bysshe Shelley