Landscape design

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It storms and storms. Big, boiling clouds rise like heavy saucepans, bigger than saucepans should look, bigger than clouds should look. Rain comes in shocks. We’re in our second week of it.

Storms come at 7 A.M. soon as 7 P.M. They come at 65 degrees soon as 85. And there’s no reading the sky beyond three minutes. A storm clatters the sky’s pots soon as you turn your back. It could be all blue where you’re looking.

You cut grass when you can, and more than once a week.

Tornadoes tore down a beautiful line of trees that had graced my uncle’s place along the river downstate. Now it’s the river and the bare house.

Each week this month I’ve heard tales of tornado sightings in my county.

Warren sends the gods a sign: we are protected by the Fantastic Four.

Wall (c)

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Categorized as Visual

Wall (b)

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Categorized as Visual


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Categorized as Visual

At Betty’s


In the morning, I can read only in her basement.  Every other room has someone sleeping in it, usually on a couch or floor.  Betty’s house is small, but it’s big enough.  One toilet and bath got seven of us through with a little charity.  I fixed the toilet yesterday and was treated like a hero.

I read on the floor of Betty’s office, the only room in the house with wall-to-wall carpeting.  She keeps a lot of her books down here.  Like her home, her shelves are simple and Spartan, clean of unexplored interests.  She cooks, and she collects cookbooks.  There are also books about God and lots of Victoria’s old storybooks, textbooks, and yearbooks.  Each summer, two or three of Victoria’s old friends come over, and we inevitably open the yearbooks.  Pictures of Victoria at every stage of life grace about every room, even in the basement.


And Betty grows roses.  This morning I discovered Betty’s vases, the delivery systems for her simple charity, hidden in a basement recess.  I found some roses in her icebox last night, ready to go.  Yesterday I spent time in her garden, photographing her flowers.


I have a photograph of five generations: B (my daughter), Victoria, Betty (my mother-in-law), Granny (Betty’s mother), and Grandma H (Granny’s mother-in-law, who at the time was 109 years old).  Betty’s in the middle, the hinge in this lineage.  She takes care of Granny and showers gifts on us, too.

B inherited Betty’s quiet and her gentle fingers.  Betty holds and arranges and mends with entire attention, and her artisan ways made room for B’s art.  Betty’s concentration and fingers, which seem dexterous enough to have four joints each, remind me of a spider at work.

We just got back from ten enjoyable days in Nashville this morning.



Posted July 6, 2008.


Sometimes, hiking up a spring mountain, I slow through a cold presence, a ghost disassociated from any wind, the busy loam above me warm with ants.  It’s not old winter’s residuum, either.

This cold has eyes, not menacing or even intent ones, but the limpid eyes of the cold dead, the kind of eyes that feel every nape’s tooth marks.  This cold moves as slowly as black water, silently as the far side of fish: unpied, canopied – the crosshatch of hawks.

My cold is a watcher and a gift, the grave’s tossed coin, the dispossession of stone.

Nic Sebastian made a lovely audio performance of “Hollow” on Whale Sound.  Dave Bonta created an exquisite video based on the poem and Nic’s reading of it, and he published the video on Moving Poems. The image below is from the video.

Above photo is from Moving Poems (Dave Bonta) / CC BY-SA 3.0 . Feature image is derived from “Glass Pond,” a photograph by Randen Pederson. Used by permission.


My Coolpix has a beach/snow setting.  The extremes, like Stalin and Hitler, meet with a handshake.

Editing in iPhoto, I turn my beach pics into snow pics by turning down the temperature.  When the sand turns white, the haze turns blue.

I live summer each winter, my frostbitten fingers on fire in a basin of water.

Sand crabs surface in backwash and burrow back next wave.

Wicker chairs bristle in the flaccid heat.

Sand fences, home security systems, and neighborhood watches promote dune protection.

For if snow is sand, then wind is water, eroding the snow it brings.

As kids, we’d build castles and dig ravines, and the tide would leave it all smooth. Time is tide, and memories are the shells we collect.

The moon keeps time, and each tide is noon.  All we build lies between the tides.

What border lies between darkness and light?  Where is it so light that one can’t see light?  And what light ever held a mirror to its light?

For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world.  The waves break and churn; the shoreline shifts but never snaps.

Where does driftwood grow?  Beneath the forested sea, far from the febrile shore.