Broken Circle

 

IMG_0461When one of life’s circles breaks, as one in my life—a rather big, old one—recently has, I wonder, what’s left? A bunch of sticks—useless remnants or building material for something new. I teeter on the edge of one of those sticks trying to decide. The stick isn’t straight but nicely curved—a small boat, perhaps?

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Collage Giveaway!

IMG_0065I’ve got a favor to ask but one that comes with possibility not only for me… The two collages pictured here—In the Key of Yes and The Letter Home—will be given away to two of the people who write brief reviews of Step into Nature on amazon.com. before 9/1. I’ll put your name in a hat, pull out two names, etc. It’s easy to write the review. I’ll post the winners names here. Go to Step into Nature at amazon.com and scroll down to Customer Reviews. Add yours. Whatcha think? Would you?

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The Animal Before Me

BobcatAfter the climb up into the chaparral and a right turn into the wide I always stand open-eyed, mouth hanging at the absolute, simple beauty of a field with a light breeze combing through the grasses. And that’s how I was standing when an animal caught my attention walking along at a distance from me. I was quiet as my shoes would let me be, getting closer and closer—young mountain lion or big bobcat? You know how it is when you think you’re alone and then you realized you’re not? That’s how the animal responded to me. But that was after I saw her jump up and come down on what I think was a gopher hole. Sadly, she came up empty-mouthed. It was a few steps later she turned her tawny head toward me and stopped and we both stood where we were staring at the other. Pointy ears, small tail: bobcat. Then off she ran into the brush and though I went looking, she was gone.

A Love of Laughter

IMG_3229In a video on YouTube a woman riding the subway begins to laugh at something she’s reading. First it’s an upturn of her mouth and a little ripple of sound. Next it’s nearly wholehearted. What comes next is where it gets really good—one by one nearly the entire car of subway rides starts to laugh. They don’t even know what they’re laughing at. They’re laughing at laughter, with laughter, with each other. Joy permeates even a viewer thousands of miles away and maybe months after the real thing. Sweet contagion!

Sometimes it takes so little, really, to turn a day right side up until our mouths hurt from smiling and our sides ache from laughing, happiness tears running down our cheeks.

A Skirt of Green Silk

IMG_0244In preparation for a writing workshop based on the idea of translation—isn’t writing always a form of that—inspired by a recent collection of W. S. Merwin translations, I ask my friend and longtime student Alice Tao if she knows this 8th century Chinese poem by Niu His Choi and if she would read it aloud to the group in the original. Alice, who just turned 80, has written with me for many years. A few days after her birthday she gave her first public reading as the fine poet she is. After her portion of the event, the applause and the shouts of “brava” erupted from the audience!

Alice’s reply to my query was, “The last two lines are so well known that few bother to remember the whole poem, me included. I did find the Chinese original online with my brother’s help.”

Those lines read:

“My skirt of green silk woven loosely

The new grass will remind you of it everywhere”

IMG_0679Alice continued, “The image of the ‘green silk skirt’ reminds me of the passage, (or rather, when I read the passage forty five years ago, I immediately thought of the ‘green silk skirt’ poem in Chinese) quoted in John Ciardi’s The Act of Language—the beginning of Herrick’s Upon Julia’s Clothes:

“Whenas in silks my Julia goes,

Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows

The liquefaction of her clothes.”

 The Niu His Choi lines didn’t make me think of Herrick’s poem but they did bring back a sweet plaintive song I heard Cleo Lane sing once live and have listened to often in recording, I Know Where I’m Going—“I’ll wear stockings of silk, shoes of fine green leather.” IMG_1044Which can’t help but lead me to Lorca’s line, “Verde, que te quiero verde.” “Green, how I want you, green.”

The swish of the silk is audible. The green of that old Irish song always reminds me of a green suede choker necklace a boy named Brian gave me when I was in the 8th grade.

It’s that flare of color and the brief touch of silk in song and poems that brings them to life—love that’s long gone and love that wakes me up each morning.

August 15, 15

Beauty Past Beauty

IMG_0057Summer is gradually packing up her bags. It was chilly this morning as it’s not been for a while. The night’s darkness comes sooner. It’s not only because of the drought that nature’s green is turning brown. It’s the ending of the season. Oh, how I’m gonna miss you, Summer! But, wait, I love Autumn, too—the beginning of an invitation in. And harvest, the idea of it. Though this Fall I think the only thing I’ll be harvesting are the vestiges of grief. IMG_0222It’s human nature to get all glittery about Spring, that new and brilliant season. It reminds of us that in us that replenishes, is vibrant and bright.

What I’m thinking about is beauty past beauty—when a thing is past it’s prime, beyond its most evident intended or anticipated function. (Am I? Are you?) One might say my mother-in-law, at 86, is past her prime but when it comes to beauty, oh, she’s got it hands down. I’m thinking about  settled-in beauty, the subtle and easy-to-miss. Gorgeousness of that which is now brittle, the beauty of fragility, of almost gone but not quite. I’m thinking of the many hues gray has. IMG_3387With this in mind, I’ve been looking at these parts of the natural world around me. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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A Nature Love Affair

Today’s post is an interview about my book with Book Club Babble. Thank you Kelly Sarabyn for asking the best questions:

http://bookclubbabble.com/2015/08/interview-with-patrice-vecchione/

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Free to Wander

 

IMG_2474 On Monday evening I offered a free poetry writing workshop at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Every quarter I do, always on an early Monday evening, never knowing in advance who will come. I was happy to see twenty-five people show up—familiar faces and new ones. We read a couple of W. S. Merwin’s poetry translations and a bit from Step into Nature along with a children’s book illustrating a single poem: I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail. We talked about memory and magic. The next workshop there will be of a different kind. On November 2, we’ll make collage art boxes, a make-and-take workshop. Come join us!

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One participant, a man who’s attended a number of my events, Michael Keenan, who gifted me with a bag of oranges before saying goodnight, wrote this. I think you’ll want to read it. I know you will:

It used to happen all the time

when I was a young child,

that age which is the bookend of my memory.

Free wander to the trees, the lake,

the majority of my world in northern Illinois.

Alas, adulthood kidnapped me.

I escaped in California to discover

the same weave of energy inhabits the woods

and waters on this edge of the earth.

Michael Keenan
8/3/15

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Hidden in Plain Sight

IMG_0322There’s an old adage that goes, “You can’t know if you don’t go.” Actually, there isn’t such an old adage but there ought to be so I made it up, because it’s true.

The Carmel Valley restaurant that Michael and I frequent for special occasions and occasionally for not so special occasions is where my best friend Gina, who has been my best friend for over 40 years (oh, my!), who is visiting from Michigan, took me for dinner last evening. We ate and drank well. Because the day had been one with too much time spent in various chairs, I suggested we take a walk before getting back in the car.

Up into the residential neighborhood behind the restaurant we went walking into the oncoming darkness. At block’s end we turned right and there on our left a short ways down was a wide-open entryway through which we strolled into an enormous field, wider than a football field and longer than a bunch of them in a row. (How odd that I don’t have a better way to indicate the size of this land other than to compare it to the space of a sport’s field that I really don’t like.)

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We didn’t walk far into it—not only had darkness made itself known but Gina’s jetlag had too. We stood there awhile before turning back gazing into the abundance. Hidden in plain sight a swath of land took me by surprise. For years I’d come to this area and had never known of its existence—such a gorgeous open flank of land where the grass was tawny and smelled of that loamy mix of dry and wet that spells out summer. IMG_0321Our imaginations have this quality too. We carry them around in us everyday and there, look, what you’d never seen before, what you never knew was there, suddenly makes itself apparent and the world gets bigger again!