Category Archives: Nature

Pineapple: Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge, Day 6

 

This pineapple is growing on my terrace.  We have been guarding it and watching it grow for what seems like a year.  Yes, we will eventually eat it as we did the two other pineapples I have grown in the past 5 years, which were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.  Same with my papayas, although the first fruit off the newest generation of trees was a disappointment.  I think Pasiano picked it too green.  This time I will chance losing them to the possums and squirrels and let them ripen on the tree.  Same with this pineapple.  It’s so beautiful that it is no problem to wait as long as possible to harvest it. All of this horticulture is taking place at my house in San Juan Cosala, Jalisco, Mexico–a mile high on a lake about an hour distant from Guadalajara. Paradise.

 

I was invited by Cee from ceenphotography.com to participate in a challenge called Seven Day Nature Photo Challenge. (Check out Cee’s wonderful nature photos by clicking on the link above.

As part of this challenge, I am to post one nature photograph a day for one week and to ask one other person to join the seven-day challenge each day I post.  Today I ask you to check out the  photography of the Jagged Man at https://daffodilhillphotography.com/  as I’m nominating him to take part in the Seven Day Nature Challenge as well. I hope you will check out his link for a real treat.  

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

The Prompt: Never Too Late—Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

 Thanks be to that creator of the universe—
the one I can no longer pray to in a church
because of those powers who take truth prisoner
and lead the masses to wherever they can be most safely trusted
to surrender reason to them.

Thanks be to that man who turned water into wine.
Not a teetotaler. Not even abstinent, or so some say.
That man who loved all and who would not strike anyone
except for merchants making a living from the church.
Two thousand years ago,
he saw that merchants and moneylenders
would lead the world wrong—
using the little minds of frightened men
to turn faith into a weapon.

Praise be to those at the beginning of it all
who tried to set a true course but made the mistake
of leaving the compass in the hands of human fools
who saw over all, how to use it for their own glory,
making power their god and oiling their way upward
not toward salvation
but toward ever higher places in this world.

Those who are not fools might speak our enemies’ names
yet be shouted down by those
Dunning and Kruger have named as their adjutants—
the countless mindless who speed the world toward ruin.

Yet for this day, I want to turn my back on those I’d rather curse
to thank pure hearts who still can see the way.
There is still, I know, a part of them in all of us,
evident in everyday things: a mother’s sheltering arms
or in as simple an act as taking the smallest piece of pie.

So when we give thanks today,
thank those who remain kind within the world,
carrying along the spirit
of those first beneficent acts
that started with the dust of stars
and from it created consciousness
and then implanted some good turn of will
so as to give hope in a world
that feels divided in the blackness of the universe,
lonely in this night
but steering by those pinpricks in its cover
through which light shows, even in the darkest dark.

Saved

The Prompt: Local Color—Imagine we lived in a world that’s all of a sudden devoid of color, but where you’re given the option to have just one object keep its original hue. Which object (and which color) would that be?

Saved

If all at once, all color were bleached out from the world
and suddenly a universe of whiteness were unfurled—
the rainbow, flowers, trees and art all newly bleached and pearled—

I know what single object I would choose to retain
in all its colored glory, in every hue and stain,
in sun and shadow, snow and hail and dust storm, drought and rain.

Its natural color changes every day we see revealed
over every continent: forest, city, field—
over every place from which the colors will be peeled.

This one glorious object would retain its vivid hues.
It would be the whole world’s canvas and every poet’s muse.
Every lake and river, its reflection would infuse

with all the colors nature has selected for that day:
blue or gold or purple, salmon, orange or gray,
according to whatever whim of moisture, dust or ray.

If I select the sky as the object that I’d choose
to retain its myriad pigments that only start with blues,
there are a thousand colors that we wouldn’t have to lose!

And the whole world could see them in the daytime or the night.
All the colors of the rainbow would not be lost to sight,
as every day and every hour, a new one’s brought to light.

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photo by Judy Dykstra-Brown, On the road to Ajijic.

“Flutter” : The Surrogate

Surrogate w pic 6

The Prompt: Sounds Right—This is clearly subjective, but some words really sound like the thing they describe (personal favorites: puffin; bulbous; fidgeting). Do you have an example of such a word (or, alternatively, of a word that sounds like the exact opposite of what it refers to)? What do you think creates this effect?

I’ve always loved the word “’Flutter” as it applies to a butterfly or moth.  What better word could be used to describe the motion of their wings?  The moth described in my poem, however, was noticeable because of its lack of flutter.  It landed upon my computer screen like a magnetized object to metal and remained there for over two hours.  The moth pictured in the poem is the actual moth.  Tiny and green, it became part of my writing experience. Since it had chosen to remain in one position, directly on my screen, I was forced (by choice) to write around it, which could not help but influence the poem that resulted.

 

 

Nesting (May 3, 2014)

                                                                           Nesting
For most of the day on Thursday, I wondered at the profusion of birds whose cheeping seemed to be filling the air outside my kitchen, but as the afternoon wore on, I realized that the sounds—like a cross between a puppy’s squeeze toy and a handful of fingernails scraping across a chalk board or 5 squeegees being pulled across dry glass—was coming from my kitchen. A dining room chair served as a step up to the counter top, where I stood as I removed  the terracotta statues and pots from the top of my cupboards. The sounds seemed to be coming from there, but I found nothing but a half-inch crack between the concrete wall overhang and a triangular piece of board that had been placed in the corner to seal the gap.

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I went outside to see if I could locate what I now was sure was a nest of baby birds making all the racket, but I could see no place other than the half-cylindrical teja roof tiles where the nest could be. Meanwhile, every time I drew close to the corner where the sound was coming from, they grew quiet, but when I whistled for the dogs, the little chirping choir resumed, as though I’d called out to them and they were answering. The next morning, I feared the worse, as for an hour there was no sound, but when Yolanda arrived to clean, they started out again, and she was as intrigued as I was about where they could be. We got a ladder and Pasiano climbed up to inspect every inch of area on the outside of the house where they could be. He peered up a six foot long expanse of tejas but could see nothing up the tubes for as far as he could see. Yet the chirping went on for all of yesterday as well as today.

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The biggest part of the mystery is that I have never seen a parent bird enter the tejas from any side. The babies are quiet in between chirpings, which seems to indicate a mother bird arriving with fresh nestling fuel, but I can’t figure out how she is getting to the nest—wherever it is. Needless to say, as irritating as their shrill chirpings have grown to be, I prefer them to the opposite—the silence that indicates the mother has not been coming back and that her nestlings have met with a premature demise.

Birds abound here, if not in the same profusion as when 13-year-old vines covered every surface of the walls and palms, but this morning I was awakened by the loud peckings of three woodpeckers on the now-exposed trunks of my 80-foot-high palm trees. I scrunched my eyes up to watch them hop up and down a 20 foot expanse of palm, working their way around the circumference of the tree as well as up and down, their very loud pecking forming a percussion background to the chirping coming from the kitchen. For once, I knew where my camera was, so I snapped a few shots.

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I had thought to spend this day in isolation to get some writing done, but sometimes the quieter our day, the more activity we find in it. Bottle rockets as loud as cherry bombs have been going off in the hills all around me for the past two hours. I don’t know what the celebration may be, but I’ve grown accustomed to their weekly if not daily presence. There is a birthday or a communion or a wedding or a quinceañera being celebrated. Or a holy day or some national holiday.

Even if I stay inside my house and do not answer the phone, the world finds me and I can’t complain, for I always have something to write about, even if it is not the topic I had planned.

 

 

NaPoWriMo Day 29: Chew the Train

Chew the Train

A metaphor is a freight train
that gets us within 30 miles
of our final destination,
but we still have to catch a taxi to get all the way there.
And a simile is just a metaphor whose brakes have failed.
If we know that peanut butter
is like a circus on a tired tongue,
does it bring us any closer to the smell of peanut butter?
Elephants and sawdust
and sequined camisoles flavored
with the sweat of 100 performances?
Is that what peanut butter smells like?
Does it taste like candy apples
and too-bitter mustard
on stale buns
and hot dogs turned too long
upon the rollers of their grill?
Does peanut butter feel
like the unoiled bump of the Ferris wheel?
Does it sound like a calliope
or look like an ice cream cone?
Peanut butter is peanut butter.
I rest my case.

So how am I going to write a poem
without metaphors and similes?
How can I write verse
while telling the pure unadulterated truth?
How can I make you taste a poem
that is only itself?

How can I be Janis Joplin
when I’ve been taught to be Joni Mitchell?
A Rose is a Rose is a Rose,
said Gertrude Stein,
predating my insight
by a generation or two.
But this isn’t Paris,
and folks in Mexico
want a dollop of figurative language
in their poetry.

So let me say
that my mind is a busy beaver,
trying to fulfill this impossible task
of twenty little things.
I’m expected to imagine
how peanut butter sounds.
The sucking gumbo sound
of South Dakota mud
or thick mucus of a cold?
Anything but appetizing.
Ay, Caramba! you might say,
but if you were Australian,
you would say, “Don’t come the raw prawn on me, mate,”
and you would mean
“Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes,”
or “Don’t try to con me, man.”

So let me just say that peanut butter is made
by grinding peanuts so finely
that all the oil comes out
and it acquires the consistency of butter.
It isn’t like butter
nor is it butter.
It acquires the consistency of butter.
This is literal fact.
But to know the taste of peanut butter,
you will need to spread a bit upon a cracker
and have a taste, or grab a finger full.
What you will taste will be peanut butter.
The truth of it. Its reality.

And only then will I tell you
that literal truth doesn’t always tell
the whole truth.

My friend says
it is the peyote leached into the soil
the corn grows from
that gives Mexicans
such a remarkable sense of color.
The bright pigments of imagination
flood his canvasses.
His peyote dreams leak out into the real world
and wed it to create one world.
“Peyote dream” becomes its opposite—
a freight train taking us into the universal truth.
A larger reality.
This stalk of corn, this deer,
this head of amaranth,
all beckon, “Climb aboard.”

So when you bite into a taco
or tamale, when the round taste of corn
meets your tongue, and pleasure tries to flow
like a lumpy river down your throat,
look up at the poet standing in the shadows.
She’ll call herself Remi if you ask,
but do not ask. Instead, look deeper
into the shadows she wears around her like a cloak
and see that it is light that creates shadow.
See the many colors that create the black.
Follow where the corn beckons you to go––
into the other world of poetry and paint
and dance and music. Hot jazz with a mariachi beat.
Chew that train that takes you deeper. Hop aboard
the tamale express and you will ride into your
new life. It will be like your old life magnified
and lit by multicolored lights and the songs of merry-go-rounds
and when you bite into your taco, it will taste
like cotton candy and a snow cone
and your whole life afterwards will be a train that takes you nowhere
except back into yourself—a Ferris wheel
spinning you up to your heights and down again, with every turn,
the gears creaking “Que le vaya bien.”
I hope it goes well with you
and that you see the light
within the shadow
and the colors
in the corn.

glass-gem-corn-2-460

Today’s prompt is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. Here are the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

 

 

NaPoWriMo Day 24: Building Walls

 

Our prompt today was to write a poem that features walls, bricks, stones, arches, or the like.

Building Walls

The new neighbors are not friendly.
From their side of my wall,
they have severed the vines
that have covered my tall palms
that abut the wall
that has separated our properties
for thirteen years—
those maroon bougainvillea vines,
stretched ten feet wide
by covering layers of blue thunbergia,
formed a community that housed families
of birds and possums and possibly
a very large but harmless snake.
I saw it cross my patio once,
the dog and I turning our heads toward each other,
exchanging looks of surprise
like characters from a stage play or a comic book,
her so startled and curious that she followed,
nose to the ground, to the brush beside the
wall the snake had vanished into,
but never issued a bark.

At night the palm trees
and their surrounding cloaks
would give mysterious rustlings that
aroused the barking of the dogs
and I’d let them in—the pup to sleep
in the cage that was his security
and my security as well—against chewed
Birkenstocks and ruined Oaxacan rugs
and treats purloined from the little silver
garbage can that held the kitchen scraps
saved for Yolanda’s pigs.

Along with the vines,
the new neighbors cut the bougainvillea
that grew to fifteen feet above my wall
and furnished privacy from the eyes
of those standing on their patio,
ten feet above mine,
so that now their patio looks directly down
on my pool and hot tub and into my bedroom,
their new bright patio light shining all night long
into my world formerly filled
with stars and moonlight and tree rustlings.

The old wall has revealed its cracks and colors
from several past paintings
that were later made unnecessary by its cloak of vines.
It is an ugly wall that  separates  neighbors,
echoing the now-dead vines that stretch 80 feet up
to the fronds of the palms.
It takes three men three days to cut the refuse of
the dry vines down from the trees,
two truckloads to bear the cuttings away.

The dogs still bark, but the possum and the birds
have gone to some other haven,
and the men come to erect the metal trellis,
12 feet high, above the top of my low wall.
I hope the bougainvillea will grow
to cover it this rainy season,
building a lovelier wall
between neighbors who still have not met
by their preference, not mine,
causing me to wonder
if I really am as welcome in this country
as I have felt for all these years.
“My neighbors are the same,” my friend tells me.
“They do not really want us here,
and if you think they do,
you are deluding yourself.”

Thirteen years in Mexico. I miss my old neighbors,
best friends who would come to play Mexican Train at 5 minutes notice.
I miss their little yipping dog and the splash of their fountain
that the new neighbors ripped out and threw away
and the bougainvillea that drooped over my wall into their world.
“Scorpions!” the new neighbors decreed, and lopped it off wall-high.
It was a wall more than doubled in its height
by a vine as old as my life in Mexico
that can now be peered over
even from their basement casita.

With old walls gone,
higher walls of misunderstanding
have been constructed.
Each weekend their family streams in from Guadalajara.
Children laugh, adults descend the stairs
to their hot tub down below.
When I greet them, they do not smile.
I have painted the old wall,
now so clearly presented to view,
and I have taken to wearing a swimsuit in my hot tub,
waiting for my new wall to grow higher.

Before detail of tree vine

“Before” detail of tree vine and hedge.

"After" detail of tree vine.

“After” detail of tree vine.

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