004 We may find ourselves enveloped underwater, caught within a vortex of swirling fog or stinging snow, or suffused with the sun’s warmth.

Around us, creatures are similarly swaddled–in elaborate nests, in their mother’s wings or flippers, in a miniature forest of scarlet bristles.

A sea of symphony notes may surround us as surely as a riptide.

Reflected light and color may place us within a pointillist portrait.

Flora encased in ice.  A tree wound round with a red net scarf.  Endlessly enfolded layers of petals.

One may also be enveloped in emotion, from the joy of a baby’s birth to grief’s gray fog. Encased in stultifying, zero-at-the-bone fear. Trapped in a web of sorrows.

Among all these enveloping forces, surely the greatest is love’s tender hold.

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Roots and Wings

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“The Wings of a Snow White Dove” (c) 2015

Roots and wings.

It was shorthand for the process of growing up and heading out into the world in Maira Kalman’s “Max Makes a Million,” and a nod to the notion that parents provide for their children a foundation to equip them to pursue their dreams.

The hero, who happens to be a dog and a poet, had been given roots by his parents and yearns to test his wings in Paris….although he’s already ensconced in what many would take to be the bohemian paradise of New York City–“[a] jumping jazzy city. Tall people. Short people. Plaid people. Carrying boxes. Carrying chairs. Traffic. Towers. A shimmering stimmering triple-decker sandwich kind of city. Wow. New York. Bow Wow Wow.”

Our children adored this book at bedtime.  The cadence, the spirit, the genius of dropping familiar facets–plaid people, a sandwich of a city–into their conjured images of a place they’d never seen.    

Roots and wings.


Winged Panel, Bowdoin College Art Museum, Brunswick, ME (c) 2015

It’s a considerably more child-friendly version of what I now hear in Rainer Maria Rilke’s sixth Sonnet to Orpheus:

Is he native to this realm? No,
his wide nature grew out of both worlds.
They more adeptly bend the willow’s branches
who have experience of the willow’s roots.

Mary Oliver regularly captures the inextricable black shadows bound both to what is anchored by gravity and what escapes its reach: “the black river of loss/whose other side/is salvation….”  John Hiatt’s lyrics dependably traverse foundation and freedom, embedding pain and loss into upbeat tracks ostensibly about winged flight. Continue reading

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Mother, May I?


I am reblogging some Mother’s Day musings inspired by a son’s poem, and for today adding flowers for my own sons and daughters and for my mother:

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Originally posted on Love in the Spaces:

HPIM7503 Not long ago I was gifted with the pleasure of hearing Billy Collins wryly read his poem about fashioning a plastic lanyard to present to his mother:

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips 
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother. . . .

View original 358 more words

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The Accidental Tableau

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It was the slipstream of spring light that caught my eye.

The tableau of treasures was inadvertent.

I’m still unpacking from the move I had to orchestrate from our house–more accurately, my husband Jim’s beloved home–after our loss.  Slowly, family belongings have begun to settle into new spots, but I’m not much of a decorator.   (It was unadulterated irony when Jim dubbed me a domestic goddess.)  I had set several things on top of a bulky piece of furniture in my room without thinking much about the array.

When we were about to move, three of my children were home and another daughter was across the globe with only a backpack to hold a small stock of worldly belongings.  I had them grab something to hand carry to the new house.

From the blue-flecked gray granite kitchen counter his father had selected, one son wordlessly picked up a clear square vase filled with cobalt blue glass marbles.  It held sprays of dried wildflowers and baby’s breath from an arrangement my parents had sent for Jim’s memorial service.

His brother’s most treasured memento, I discovered, is a battered baseball, a game ball signed by all of his eighth-grade teammates soon after our son had finally returned from a harrowing hospital stay.  My son remembers the kindness.  I flash back to those awful eight days, then forward to Jim’s diagnosis, when I sobbed irrationally to my friend Judy.  “I thought nothing could be as bad as when he”–our son–“was sick.”    

Our younger daughter carried the Les Paul–her father’s guitar, which he’d acquired when he was a teenager.  It was safely ensconced in butterscotch velvet in the sturdy black case he’d bought shortly before we met.


“We could sell this,” he had mused not long after he was diagnosed.

“No!” my daughter and I had cried out in tandem.

The Les Paul provided the accompaniment when she sang a song dedicated to him at an evening prayer service after he had died.

Hey, little girl
Black and white and right and wrong
Only live inside a song
I will sing to you

You don’t ever have to feel lonely
You will never lose any tears
You don’t have to feel any sadness
When you look back on the years

How can I look you in the eyes, 
And tell you such big lies?

The best I can do is try to show you
How to love with no fear

My little girl
You’ve gone and stole my heart
And made it your own
You’ve stole my heart
And made it your own


Some of the same dried flowers my son had picked up to transport by hand ended up in my accidental tableau, tea-dyed buds glowing white where the sun dallied above them. They ended up in a basket within a basket: the smaller one is oval, a filigree of curled wicker.  My cousin Jacobina carried the small basket when she was a bridesmaid at our wedding and it held a tussy mussy of summer buds that was presented to my beaming grandmother, who is now long gone.

The outer basket made its first appearance when cousin Chris dispatched not one but two glorious summer bouquets to our first home days after our first son was born.   When the flowers’ brilliant lavender and yellow had been exhausted, the basket remained on a dormant wood stove whenever the house did not need warming.

In our next home, the same basket held birthday gifts friends brought to Jim at a surprise party for what we all knew would be his last birthday, when our home was brimming with family and friends and music and laughter.  It had rarely been as full.  Now, in our new home, it holds cards and letters sent to us after Jim died.

My eyes travelled to the left when I re-examined the picture I’d taken.

My treasures, you might say. Continue reading

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