Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stop and Smell the Cows

Tonight I was walking out of the Hillside Farms Dairy Store where I have been buying my milk.  It was dark and chilly and there was a distinct smell of cow in the air.  And while that smell is not one that I would bottle up and sell at the perfume counter of Macys, it was still strangely soothing.

The smell reminded me that the bottle of milk I was holding in my hand had a tangible connection to the land I was walking on.  The air I was breathing in was the same air that the cows’ breath was misting in as they walked into their barn across the street.   The water I saw in the stream next to the road was the same water that those cows drank.  Everything around me, from the dirt and grass beneath my feet to the sun that shone so brightly that day, was part of the milk in the bottle in my hand.

Years ago, when I was younger than my own children are now, that connection with nature was something that I rarely thought about.  Right in our backyard, my Mother had a vegetable and root garden.  I still remember her warm potato salad, made with potatoes and onions from her garden and covered in chives she had cut that day from her flower garden.  I remember going to an orchard in Noxen and picking our own apples fresh from the trees.  I remember driving by Harter’s Dairy and seeing the cows that made the milk the milkman delivered to our house.  I remember stopping on a fall afternoon and buying gallons of apple cider that Mr. Spencer and his family had pressed that day from apples they had picked from the trees behind their barn.  On that same road, we used to pass by a house where you could see the bee hives they kept and where you could buy quarts of “… the freshest honey outside of a hive.”

But mostly I remember my Mom, Dad, Brother and I filling buckets with wild blueberries at Rickett’s Glen State Park.  Then we would stop in Steele’s Restaurant after a day of hiking, swimming and blueberry picking to have some fresh cooked food and Blueberry Pie made with blueberries picked by Mr. and Mrs. Steele and baked that day.  Nothing to this day has ever compared to the taste of Mrs. Steele’s homemade blueberry pie, served warm with vanilla ice cream.

I wonder how many of today’s generation have ever felt that connection.  I wonder where they think food comes from.  Do they realize that there is more to food than supermarket shelves and boxes of prepared meals?  How many of them have ever seen a cow, up close and in person?  How many of them know what an apple fresh from the tree tastes like, or have ever felt a freshly picked strawberry squirt juice all over their tongue as they take a bite?  Can they even know what they are missing?

In this world filled with email, virtual pets, on-line dating, e-books and digitally altered photography it is a good thing once in a while to walk on a farm and rest in the shade of an old tree while eating an ice cream cone that the cows in the field below you made the milk for yesterday morning.  Touching the grass that the cows ate and seeing the milk the farmer collected and then turned into the ice cream that cools your tongue on a warm day will put you in touch with yourself.  You will discover things about yourself.   You will realize that you are indeed a part of this whole universe, this chain of being.  Whoever you conceive God to be, it is easier to get in touch with the divine when there are fewer man-made things between you and the universe.  Whether we evolved in this world to be a part of it or if we were designed and made to fit into it, it is still better to realize that we are a part of this world.  We are made from the bones of this earth and it is a good thing to touch them once in a while and ground ourselves.

So, if you can, get out today and find that part of you that lives on a quiet farm or in an autumn-tinted forest.  Bask in the sunshine, let the water of a stream tickle your fingers and deeply breathe in the air around you.  Take your children there and let them learn about that part of themselves.  And teach them that it is a good thing, once in a while, to stop and smell the cows.

For more information about the wonderful volunteers and sublimely beautiful dairy and farm at The Lands at Hillside Farms, see their webpage here or check them out on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Like Leaves in Autumn

Where does the hour go?

(when we turn the clock ahead
and that hour just evaporates
like a summer puddle on a hot sidewalk
here, then gone...

no memory of it...
no moments, no minutes

just a sense that it was here
like a long dead relative in an old photograph
touching on some part of you you can't define)

Where are all those hours I spent with you?

(turning the clock ahead
watching those moments blow away
like leaves in autumn

they were here
I have some sense of them...

but now they're gone)

Where have all those moments gone?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Long Day Now is Over

The long day now is over
and I see the setting sun.
The long day now is over
and now all my work is done.

The long day now is over
and all my work is complete;
having done what must be done
I'm ready to rest my feet.
The long day now is over
there is no more need to run
and labor in the heat
of a hot and cruel sun.
The long day now is over
and I see the cool sweet night
where you lay and wait for me
in the sunset's soft red light.
The long day now is over
and all that I want to be
is the man that holds you tight
in the shade of our old tree.
The long day now is over
and I see you waiting there
smiling as I walk to you
forgetting my every care.
The long day now is over
there is nothing I must do
but run my hands through your hair
and stare in your eyes so blue.
The long day now is over
and I'm ready for my rest
to lay my head next to that
of the one that knows me best.
The long day now is over
and I want the woman that
brightens me like lemon zest
brightens a meal that tastes flat.
The long day now is over
I have watched the setting sun.
The long day now is over;
the best of life has begun.

Friday, September 30, 2011

All That I Know...

The sun rises,
the sun sets.
A baby cries,
a mother frets.

There is nothing I can do
to keep my heart from you
for all I try to hide
is as certain as the tide.

A breath comes in,
a breath goes out.
A believer believes
and doubters only doubt.

This heedless headstrong desire
burns in my body like a fire,
leaving me feeling empty and cold
when you're not here for me to hold.

Winter cedes to spring,
summer runs to fall.
Oceans are wide and deep,
mountains are cold and tall.

And all that I know is true
is I love every part of you
and as long as there is breath in me
that is as certain as waves on the sea.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Moon and Night, the Day and Sun

How happy the moon must be
that he can look down and see
you as you sit and brush your long lustrous hair
and place all your pillows with such perfect care.

How very glad must be the night
that he gets to see the sight
of you as you lay and dream in your bed
with visions of passion playing through your head.

How happy must be the sun
when each night is finally done
and a sunbeam can softly caress your face
with kisses as gentle as the finest lace.

And how glad must be the day
as it sees you on your way
from the moment you rise and go through the door
until you've found all that you were seeking for.

How I envy the moon and the night!
How jealous I am of each sight
that they take and hold and do not share
of the one whose face I find so fair.

How greedy are the day and the sun,
that they share with me not even one
of the kisses they plant on your face.
How I desire to be in their place!

I am sure that someday soon
I will not envy the moon.
And I know for sure that there will come a night
I will see your face filled with dreams of delight.

I know you will hear me say
sweet soft words to start your day.
Someday we will sit and watch the setting sun
holding each other when the long day is done.

But until that day is here,
until I can hold you near,
I envy the moon and night, the day and sun
every moment until our parting is done.

No. 107

Maybe I’m naive…
Maybe I believe
Too much that isn’t true.
But what can I do?
I’m fascinated by you.
Maybe what I see
Is something that can’t be?
But what is there left for me
But some vague impossibility
And frustrating futility?
I know that I should go,
I know that this whole show
Ended long ago for me.
Never even made it to act three
And that’s the way it had to be.
But I’d like to hear the applause
And fight for this lost cause
If only for an hour or two
Until this whole play is through
I’d like to spend some time with you.


Sunday, September 18, 2011


So what has been the tale of my life?
What lesson should I take from all the years,
from every second that's been filled with strife
and the tracks of all my tears?

Should I become so bitter, hard and cold
that I fulfill every fear of my youth?
Disillusionment grows as we get old;
pessimism becomes truth.

Will this be me as I approach twighlight?
A bitter old man alone with his fear,
muttering and cursing into the night,
scared to see the end so near.

How did this cold man come from what was me?
In the show of my life, this little play,
I never thought this would be my act three.
How did it turn out this way?

Do I even dare to hope there is more,
some sweet taste of life in the bitter dregs?
Is there anything left I should fight for?
Should I race on tired legs?

I suppose it's too late to change my part -
the play has begun, I must see it through.
I'll try to be a credit to my art
and I'll do what I must do.

But still I'd like maybe just once to know
that somewhere hidden deep within my soul
is all the hope and love I used to show
'fore bitterness took its toll.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Rich Man

The laughter of children, the smiles of friends,
someone there to hold me when the long day ends,
a breeze in the morning and soft rain at night
that is all I need to feel the world is right.

That's all that I want, I don't need anymore
and trading time for riches - what is it for?
All the money that is or ever could be
won't buy another day with those dear to me.

So come share a moment, a minute or two
nothing's as important as time spent with you.
Live with me each moment, as much as you can,
that's when I'll think of myself as a rich man.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Wages of Poetry.

“I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.”
—William Carlos Williams

Very few poets make a living of poetry
and those that try mostly live in penury.
Frost was a farmer and Byron a Lord
and Shakespeare's plays paid his room and board.

And yet I sit here night after night,
compelled by my nature to write and write.
Why do I sit here and put down on this page
my fears and my hopes, my joy and my rage?

What has been my reward for these hours of toil?
How has rhyming eased my shuffle through this mortal coil?
Not a thin dime, a wooden nickel or a single cent
has poetry ever offered to put torwards my rent.

But every night when I'm tired and the day is done
I sit myself down and write yet another one.
For like taking a breath or the beat of my heart
I write and I write and try to perfect my art.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In A Kiss...

Love is not found in grand gestures
or complicated schemes

It is found instead in soft glances
and half-remembered dreams

Love is like a feast, a meal for the soul
that satisfies and makes you whole

It fills you, gives you what you hunger for
yet always keeps you wanting more

Love is not a gemstone hard and cold
to be traded, bought and sold

Love is more a flower, a single rose
whose scent softly tickles your nose

Love is not shouted brazenly for all to hear
instead it whispers softly in your ear

Love encourages, builds up and sustains
through all your fears and your pains

Love is a newborn child, barely one day old
whose future is as yet untold

How it will change and turn and grow
only time alone will show

Love is subtle and forever ever changing
responding always to life's rearranging

Yet it is constant as the greatest sea
enduring and lasting all eternity

No scale can hold it, weigh or know it
no man can see it, not one bit

For love can be measured only by this
the passion found in a lover's kiss

Friday, August 19, 2011

So I Must Do What I Must Do

As a flower follows the sun until each day is done
As a Muslim turns with care to his holy city for each prayer
As a stream follows the land 'til it reaches the sea strand
So I must do what I must do and follow, ever follow, you.

As the sun heads to its rest always going from East to West
As the stars shine in the night to ensure your path is right
As the compass will always show the way your path must go
So you are ever and always to me the only guide I see.

As a man must take his breath every moment 'til his death
As a moth must fly to fire throwing itself upon its pyre
As a flower must bloom and grow before time brings it low
So we must, we must be, fated to be each other's destiny.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

As We Were When We Were Young

Just another moment in the Poetry Corner:

In the light just before day
in that moment before the rising sun
announces that night is done
and then chases all of our dreams away,
that is when I see you still
as we were when we were young.

That is when I see your hair
being blown by the soft summer breeze
as you stood by the apple trees
and danced so joyously without a care -
that is how I see you still
as we were when we were young.

If there’s now a touch of frost
hiding in among your bright black tresses
and each smile your age confesses
know you have not one bit of beauty lost
and know that I see you still
as we were when we were young.

Each day is one moment more
I am thankful you get to spend with me.
Each bright day my lips will plea
for one more sweet kiss than the day before.
I’ll always be with you still
as we were when we were young.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Art Lesson

Most non-Spanish people don't know much about the history of Spain in the 20th century.  Very few people bother to know much about it at all and most general world history classes tend to ignore it, but if you are smarter than the average bear you might know a bit about the Spanish Civil War.

That most people tend not to know much about the war is a real failure of education in the world today.  The Spanish Civil War was a practice ground for the Second World War.  Hitler and Mussolini sent weapons and "Volunteers" to support the Nationalist side under Generalissimo Francisco Franco and many of the battlefield tactics the Germans would use later in World War II were first used and refined in Spain fighting against the Republican forces.

The Spanish Civil War also saw a lot of famous people participate.  Ernest Hemingway fought on the side of the Republicans and wrote The Sun Also Rises about Spain and For Whom The Bell Tolls specifically about the Civil War.  George Orwell, of Animal Farm and 1984 fame, also fought on the Republican side.

But the one person I want to talk about in all of this is Pablo Picasso.  You know who he is but you may not know that one of his most famous paintings is based on a terrifying event that happened during the Spanish Civil War.  The painting Guernica is about the bombing of that city by German and Italian planes in 1937.  It was a pretty horrific event and probably the first example of using airplanes for terror bombing in history.

All war is hell.  There is no doubt of that.  But people can become inured to the most terrible things.  Looking back now at what happened to Guernica it seems such a small thing.  After all, thousands died in the Blitz of London.  A hundred thousand each may have died in the Dresden and Hamburg bombing raids.  The firebombing of Tokyo may have killed 125,000 people and of course the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed probably another 140,000.  So the losses at Guernica - 1200 people at most - would seem almost insignificant in comparison.

Isn't that shocking though?  That we can call the loss of 1200 people "insignificant" really reminds me of just how casual we are about human life, even in this day and age.  Twelve hundred people would be two-thirds of the people in my home town.  Yet in comparison to so many other events, twelve hundreds does seem a trivial matter.

I imagine that it was not a trivial matter at the time.  Back in 1937, the horrors that would become so commonplace in World War II had yet to occur.  That civilians would get bombed in their homes, that bridges would be bombed and roadways strafed with machine guns so that those trying to flee the bombs could not do so, would not yet be the commonplace cataclysms that they became.  The destruction of three-fourths of a town's buildings was still a novel event.  High explosive and incendiary bombs dropped from thousands of feet in the air, indiscriminately killing young and old, man and beast, were a new way of creating hell on Earth.

And it is that context that we have to look at Picasso's painting of the event.  He was recording the newest horror that man had perpetrated upon man.  In stark black and white, he engraved on our psyches the revulsion and fear that must have accompanied the realization that war had become even more terrible than it had been before.  It is a nightmare written on canvas, and all the more terrible in that it was real.

It is said that while he was in Paris during the Nazi occupation, a Nazi officer was looking at a photograph of Guernica.  He studied it for a while, perhaps seeing all the destruction and death that Picasso had put into this piece of art.  He is supposed to have turned to Picasso and said "You did this?"

To which Picasso replied, "No. You did."

And that perhaps is the art lesson for today.  That art, good art, should reflect life, should make you see life in some new way.  And if art is a reflection of life, then it follows that some art must shock and horrify us.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Garbage Day

It was garbage day today
and I put some stuff out on the curb
for the garbage men to take away.

Not a single thing of any real worth,
at least not to you or I anymore.
A card or three that you'd given me
and some keys - I'd forgotten what they were for.

There were a bunch of old letters I had kept,
and silly things we'd save from when our life was new.
All that we thought we were when you still lived here
is sitting on the curb in bags covered in morning dew.

And what is really making me think
is how easy it has been to throw a life away.
To toss every memory in and just so casually fill a bin
with all that had been important in some way.

It was garbage day today
and the garbage men have hauled
all that junk on the curb away.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Lost Sock

A few months ago while I was putting away my laundry I came across a single black sock.  All of the laundry was folded, but I was left with a single black sock.  I suppose this was the universe's way of letting me know that somewhere between the hamper in my bedroom and the dryer in my laundry room, a small wormhole had opened up and sucked in the sock that would have matched the one I found.  But I refused to believe that sock was irretrievably gone - I had faith that it was SOMEWHERE in my house, and not in a dryer in Shanghai, at the other end of that wormhole, where some guy was even then saying, "地狱没有这些袜子来自?" ("Where in the hell did this sock come from?").   

I put the poor lonely black sock that had remained with me on top of my dresser, thinking that I would find its match soon.  But it sat there, mocking me each morning for four months, reminding me that somewhere out there was one of my black socks.  And I waited.  I am a patient man.  I could wait for that lost sock to return, to come back to its mate and lead a happy life again, as least as much as anything that has to spend its existence sandwiched between my feet and my shoes could call itself happy.

Then last weekend, I found a black sock in the laundry room, in the narrow space between the wall and the washer.  I was ecstatic.  I had my lost sock back!  The Parable of the Prodigal Son came to mind.  I debated slaughtering a fatted calf...

But of course, when the laundry was folded and I came to the last sock and triumphantly grabbed the one on top of my dresser, I noticed that the two socks now in my hands DID NOT MATCH.  One was a Docker, the other Izod.  One had narrow stripes, the other wide stripes.  So now, instead of having one unmatched and lonely sock, I have TWO.  The universe is mocking me.  I know it.  I can hear it snickering.

But I suppose I can take a lesson from this.  I was so looking forward to the day I would find that lost sock.  And when I finally did find a lost sock, that which I thought would be the answer to my problems, it turns out that in reality all it did was double my problems, because now there are two unmatched socks on top of my dresser, mocking me... 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Steam Cleaning

So, I steam cleaned my tile floors today.  That's the biggest advantage of being underemployed - my floors are cleaner than they have ever been. I use my Shark Steam Mop (I love it, and would give it a shameless plug, but couldn't they put a quick release on the cord holder?  I love the long cord, I just hate having to wrap it all up again when I'm done).


I steam cleaned my floors today and as I was just about to start doing that, I spotted a big cockroach-type bug (it's Florida - it could be any one of a gazillion different critters, but for now it was a cockroachy looking kind of bug) looking dazed and confused, on the living room carpet right next to the entryway. I am a card-carrying manly man, having rescued many a fair damsel from spiders, mice, lizards and the odd seagull or two, but even I will not engage a cockroach mano-a-mano. No, I will not argue with five million years of evolution and my tool-creating forebearers just so I can look all macho squashing a bug with my bare hands. Instead, I will whack them with whatever is to hand - shoes, rolled up newspapers, hammers, my daughter's boyfriends - as I make my small contribution to continued human dominance of this planet over the cockroachy-type hordes.

So what did I have to hand? Well, my handy steam mop. Without even thinking, I walloped the steam mop down on top of that bug faster than Lindsay Lohan can get arrested. I then stood there, wondering what to do next, when I realized that I was holding a steam mop. Sometimes, it takes me a while - I can't be brilliant all the time. So I really pumped up the steam. For five minutes I pumped up enough steam to make any locomotive proud. When I felt that I had done enough, I lifted the mop only to see the bug STILL MOVING. That's right, five minutes of intense steaming was not enough to render this super roach lifeless. So I walloped the steam mop back down and set to work again.

I kept that steam going and going and going until a bunch of Swedes showed up at my door carrying towels. Probably fifteen minutes later, I tried again to see if that bug was gone to meet its maker. It laid on its back, its little legs folded in front of it like it was praying. I might have felt a little remorse, just a little sorry for the poor bugger, but in this battle for the planet, it's them or us. This time, it was one of them.  Next time, mankind may not be so lucky...

But now I keep having this strange thought going through my head. It probably comes from watching too much Travel Channel, but I'm wondering what Andrew Zimmerman is doing for dinner tonight?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Universe and Welcome To It...

The universe is at once huge and infinitesimally tiny.

The universe is the sum of all the experiences that you are capable of.  We all perceive the universe in different ways; a beautiful flower to one person may be a weed to another.

We live in a world of perception.  Everything we experience, everything we know of this universe, we learn through one of our five senses.  Whether something feels hot or cold, whether something smells good or bad, whether something looks beautiful or ugly, all depends on our perceptions.

Add to this that all of us are different.  We are, each of us, the product of our upbringing and our environment.  How we perceive the world is affected by how we have interacted with this world.  To an honest man, the world is filled with honest people; show me a man that believes all others lie and you can be sure you cannot trust him.  So, to paraphrase the quote, we see the universe as we are.

Perhaps you've experienced this... a person tells you to give them your opinion of their red shoes, but to you they are wearing pink shoes.  Or maybe someone tells you that these flowers smell simply beautiful, but you find them to be simply awful.

So, because we each perceive the universe in a different way, we each see a different version of reality.  What I see and you see is never going to be exactly the same.

That sounds bleak.  If you think about it, you are all all alone in a universe that only you can see.  No one else can ever see the world in exactly the same way you do.  There is no other person in the universe that is able to see the universe the same way you do.
But also consider this.  That we all perceive reality in a different light allows us to see things in shades of gray.  The world can not be just black or white, for black and white have different meanings for every single person in the world. So our unique perceptions allows for the universe to be infinitely diverse and so beautiful in so many ways that we simply have no idea of.  And it also means that the universe needs us, creatures capable of recognizing beauty,  for it to be beautiful.

If there were no one to see a sunset, would it be beautiful or would it just be?  Can any other creature pause and notice the beauty of this world?  Could a mouse relate the beauty of a blossom to another mouse?  The universe requires us to appreciate its beauty.  Otherwise, all of creation becomes mundane and ordinary, a random collection of atoms with no other meaning.  The universe requires those that can appreciate it.

And it is in that that I find the most subtle beauty of all.  I have long loved language.  That we have a tool that allows us to share our perceptions with those around us comforts me.  It means that we are not alone in our universe, but rather that we can share our insights with all those that also exist here with us.  And I believe that we should - and must - share our visions with each other.