Dec. 5: LavaUmuchly

Big fan, really, from the moment
I first walked across your inky
brittle ground crinkling like glass
underfoot, and look at you go, girl—

meaning no disrespect, Madame
Pele, just enthusiastic yah-hooing
an ocean away from your fountaining
fissures on Mauna Loa this week
that some might call a bit show-offy,
but I see as geologic performance
art, the work of a literal rock star
goddess creating new earth
on the planet.

We don’t get to see your active
state on the surface nearly often
enough for my taste, though I fully
appreciate your great power.

My first time on your island, setting
foot on one of your incarnations—
smooth pahoehoe only months old—
a young geologist leading the way
advised, “If you hear a rumbling noise
run toward the mountain, not the ocean,”

which was how I learned the term
bench collapse, one of which weeks
before had taken two visitors into the sea,
never to be found.

“Of course,” said the scientist
in hard hat and lava-singed boots,
well acquainted with your fiery self,
“if she wants you, she’ll take you.”

That made me grateful for our
safe passage that day and ever after
across lava, which makes me cheer
like a crazy fangirl when I tune in
live to see your screamin’ orange
magnificence blasting through land
you created not that long ago, that
you’ll continue to make long after
I’ve left the planet, when, somehow,
I hope, in some form, I’ll still be
among your enthusiastic admirers.

(Photo / Dick Schmidt)
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Dec. 4: Puddles

We are not used to getting our feet wet
when we step outside. We recoil at damp
mail pulled out of the box, shake our
annoyed heads when the cat pops in
through the flap in the back door,
fur glistening, paws imprinting the floor
like dirty rubber stamps.

We are a dry people unused to rain,
and while we are grateful in theory,
in practice we are rusty. The umbrellas
don’t unfurl as we think they used to;
our jackets get soaked, and it’s not
even a downpour out there—it’s
just plain old garden-variety rain.

And speaking of the garden, which
we gave up watering a month ago,
as of late this afternoon you could
surf across the backyard, and though
we just raked, something about
precipitation yanks down leaves
even without much wind, so that
brittle plates of sycamore float
atop the shallow sea, under which.
we imagine, stunned blades of grass
reach for the surface, waving like kelp,
as the invisible quarter moon
tugs on the tiny tides.

(photo / salladhor)
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Dec. 3: Acorns

for GAT

They arrived on the doorstep today,
and I thank you aloud—because
who other than Santa, maybe,
would think to send me a pair
of what became my favorite slippers

practically the moment you insisted
I try on what became my first cozy pair
at the island hay and feed store—which
sold so much more than hay and feed—
because, you said, they’ll keep your
feet extra warm, and who can’t use
extra warmth?

Especially as the days shorten
and colden, you’d say.

I want to tell you that they’re
perfect in size and color, and yes,
the toes stay toasty in the Acorns,
and I hope this thank you note will
reach you in your latest incarnation
because you didn’t leave a forwarding
address—as if sunflowers get mail,
as if rainbows require anything
more than simple, unqualified
admiration.

(Photo / Jan Haag)
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Dec. 2: Wide open

Striding into a thankfully cloudy day,
your pupils perform a fine imitation
of Hershey’s Kisses after the optometrist
dilates your aging eyes, which are in
(hallelujah) not-bad shape, the two
of you agree.

But outside, your aperture wide open,
you perceive a tack-sharp focal plane
a hair’s-breadth wide against a blurry
background, and you wish you could put
a hand on the lens of your retinas to pop
it all into sharp focus.

But no, your vision will remain expansive
for a while, leaving you a wide-eyed kid
inhaling the petrichor wafting up from
the just-rained-on ground, eagerly taking in
the unusual perspective, stepping gingerly
over the slick linoleum of leaves underfoot,

trying hard not to squint.

(Photo / Dick Schmidt)
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Dec. 1: And when the rains finally come

on the first day of the last month,
we find ourselves walking on
a carpet of golds—some burnished

with smudges of cinnamon—but mostly
ginkgo leaves the color of new lemons,
a startling contrast to the wet road.

We are drawn to put our feet on them,
what yesterday seemed determined
to cling to where they’d been born,

but like us, once so firmly attached,
somehow persuaded to detach,
find a place among what some

might consider litter as we scuff
damp toes through them like
little kids, bending to peer more

closely, absorbing the colors of
marigolds, of honey, of bumblebees
that cruised the garden, itself

turning tawny, the once vibrant
now the texture of a broken-in
saddle. Which is why, out here,

we exult in color on a such dull day,
knowing that shades of daffodils
still exist, underfoot and underground,

colors so alive that even in
their dying we can taste them:
mustard—Dijon and regular,

mango and tangerine with
a little carob tossed into this
leafy salad of ginkgo gold.

(for Deborah Meltvedt, River Park walking buddy)

Photo / Jan Haag
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Nov. 30: Cretan

for Jeannine

In an oak grove where we used to camp
as Girl Scouts, several decades later a young
Boy Scout outlined a labyrinth behind
the church where we’d attend Girl Scout
Sundays and my sister eventually married,

and all that came rushing back as I
walked the seven-circuit path whose
origins lie in ancient Crete—not a maze
but a single circular path leading to and fro,
bringing the wanderer back to the place
where she first began—

which is perhaps why visions of girls
in sleeping bags landed on me like oaks
releasing acorns and trefoil leaf clusters,
of learning how uncomfortable it was
to try to sleep on the ground, colder
than expected, of my Girl Scout buddy
tugging on me in the night because she

had to use the bathroom, and your buddy
had to accompany you everywhere,
and, as I walked the concentric circles
backward into my life, I found myself
apologizing to that long-ago buddy
whom I refused to accompany, not
wanting to wander the chilly night,
green flashlight in hand, more than
a half century later ashamed of my
selfishness, murmuring I’m sorry
to the trees rustling in autumn
shade, until I returned to the beginning,
having no idea how I’d gotten there.

(Photo / Jan Haag)
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Nov. 29: Earthrise as seen from Orion Spacecraft

Oh, there should be a waltz playing
behind this slow reveal—the Blue Danube

or a delicate Chopin piano tune—as
the moonshadow lowers at an oblique angle,

exposing the tiny blue dot seemingly
alone in the inkiness of space:

our home planet beamed back to us
like a dazzling smile, the place that holds

everyone we have ever known, ever loved,
which is why a gentle, lilting song might

remind us that all this fussing and fighting,
my friends, makes no sense. Here’s this

manmade creation sent into space for
a close moon flyby, looking over its shoulder

like a kid finding his balance on a two-wheeler,
pedaling off on a big explore. Its electronic

eye focuses backward on the third planet
from the sun silently emerging into its

star’s dazzle as if to say, Look: Home.
The only one you will ever know.

It’s not too late. Cherish it, and, while
you’re at it, each other.

Artemis/Orion selfie (Photo / NASA)
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Nov. 28: Etomology

(the origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning)

Though I don’t play, I love
to peruse lists of new Scrabble words
that have entered the game:
hangry
onesie
spork
horchata
skeezy

which make me smile, but then the mind twists over
grawlix
which I should know because we use them all the time
typographical symbols used to replace words,
often swear words

and
embiggen (to increase in size), which makes sense
when you think about it

and the ones we’ve recently learned, not knowing we were
embracing new language:
pageview
subtweet
unfollow
unmute
vax

and I love that
guac (the yummy green avocado glop)
has made it in
along with
zedonk (a cross between a zebra and a donkey)
and
Jedi (at long last!)

And new abbreviations that I hear from young ones:
Here’s the sitch, one might say.
Let’s have a convo, about that, maybe a Zoomer?

To which I might add (as Scrabble has)
Yeehaw!

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Nov. 27: Sparky

in memory of Charles Schulz on his 100th birthday

Never thought I’d meet and interview him,
let alone have a hot dog with him in the
Warm Puppy Café,

but as long as I live, I’ll cherish the ride
on the back of a Zamboni around his ice rink
with the man who made the ice resurfacing

machine famous, as if he had all the time
in the world for a young reporter trying to
disguise her devotion to his characters—

not least the beagle atop his doghouse
typing stories—as we cruised the ice,
my cheeks and fingers red with cold,

watching the newly smoothed surface
pass beneath us, as clean and shiny as
Charlie Brown’s sweet head.    

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Nov. 26: All cleared out

How good it feels to empty a space
that stored my stuff for far too long—
a good seven years—for which I paid
for far too long, really a good-sized
walk-in closet a mile and a half
from home.

But Dick and I cleared out the last
of it the day after Thanksgiving—
two car loads, trundling box by box
to the garage where I will eventually
sift through it, discarding, if I am
motivated, more than I save.

Everything I need is here, at home,
along with much I don’t, the stuff
of a lifetime. This existence does not
need to be so deeply archived, though
I still have papers—so many papers!—
and books that will—let’s face it—
never be enshrined in a library.

Fall falls over us now, the last
ginkgo fans fluttering to earth
as the month swings into December.
I admire the trees’ annual letting go,
how effortless it appears. They don’t
cling to what needs to be released.

I close the garage, walk to my favorite
ginkgo that lives down the block,
scoop up some of its cast-off gold fans
to last me through winter, hoping,
somehow, to absorb a bit of this elder’s
equanimity.

Leafed or bare, the ginkgo
stands tall amid delicate breezes,
blazing sun, pelting rain, mindful
of all that passes, all that grows
and lives and dies, not taking any
of it too seriously, understanding,
somehow, that everything that
comes and goes, delightful or
tragic, is all just
weather.

Photo / Dick Schmidt
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