Nov. 24: Gratefully, joyfully, abundantly

thankful I am—moreso every year
I live on the planet—that I can rise

on a pearly day of gratitude to walk
with thousands, whose every step

benefits those who hunger, from
those of us who generally do not,

who will turn to tables laden with
every manner of food and feed,

if we are lucky, with loved ones,
thinking of the ones we love not present,

joyfully grateful for them, too
and all the abundance that graces us

as we remember to not simply walk
by those in need, but to reach out

a hand, extend a little genuine kindness,
every chance we get.

Photo / Jan Haag
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Nov. 23: Sue’s 65th b.d.

To me, fair friend, you can never be old,
For as you were as first your eye I eyed…

—from Sonnet 104, William Shakespeare

Because your eyes are the same as those of
the 8-year-old next door, whose neighborhood
next to a lake, amid oak trees, was now mine,

and how you welcomed my sister and me,
you, the cherished only child, acquiring two
sorta sisters next door in the blink of a summer day,

whether you wanted us or not, and I,
lucky girl, without knowing it, had found a
best friend nine months older and a head taller,

who, still, now and always, is the one I think
of first when someone asks about childhood
memories. Your eyes, still hazel, your capable

surgeon’s hands, your heart grown more
generous with age—still you, still Sue,
and we lucky ones, so many of us,

to have you in our lives, who cherish you,
thank you for all you’ve brought to our lives,
wish you well and send you great joy.

Dr. Susan Lester, Four Paws Animal Clinic, Nevada City, CA,
with birthday cake and lunch kindly provided by the excellent staff (Photo / Jan-babe)
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Nov. 22: Schlepping

Did I learn the word from Marty Weisinger,
my father’s Army buddy who traveled 400 miles

ages ago to introduce my sister and me to the only
Jewish deli in Sacramento, to experience giant

kosher pickles and pastrami for the first time?
Or perhaps my father used it, he the Lutheran

raised outside Chicago, it and other Yiddish
words making their way into my vocabulary.

And there’s really no better word for it as I
begin to clear out a storage space I’ve paid for

for far too long, with help from the 79-year-old
sweetheart who should not be schlepping but wants

to lend a hand and take photos, and the 28-year-old
assistant, a master schlepper/organizer (bless her).

I claim my lifelong habit as an acquirer, now
doing my best to un-acquire, shed a lifetime

of acquisitions—or at least the ones of lesser
importance, the what was that for? and

the easily let go. And so we three schlepp
and load, drive home, unload, adding,

for the moment, to the garage collection
waiting for sorting, stirring in me, at least,

a desire for good pastrami and (thank you,
Marty) don’t forget the pickle.

Dick, Jan and Dani / photo by Dick Schmidt
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Scooter

for Kevin and Lauren

My sister and I had an antique
inherited from who knows where—
a heavy metal, fat rubber-tired
model that our father refurbished,
a slowpoke model that made it
harder for me, the klutzy one,
to fall off, but a form of transport
that neither of us clamored to ride.

Today, an ample half century after
we looked for wheels to carry us
around our rural neighborhood,
I walked a sidewalk that circled two
playing fields a couple miles away,
hearing a rhythmic clack-clack-clack
behind me, something coming lickety-split,
(clearly not another sneaker’d senior walker),
so I pulled right and paused to see
what could possibly—

and there, in red helmet and on a sharp
silver scooter rocketed my nephew—
or a kid who looked just like him
when he was about ten—rolling over
sidewalk sections and laying down
a percussive beat I could’ve marched to.

The kid zoomed by, saying nothing,
focused on what lay ahead, and I could
not stop the word or the laugh that
burst from me—Kevin!—because it
went by that fast for me, his childhood
and his sister’s, both of them now
grownup teachers, one of them still
scootering, both soaring into their futures,
always looking forward, wind in their faces,
advancing onward, Aunt Jan happily
applauding from behind.

Photo / Aunt Jan
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Soup’s on

the brand new stove—
first thing I’ve cooked on it—
the gas burner igniting, all systems
go, like the rocket called Artemis,
this week heading for the moon,

she the goddess of the hunt,
of wild animals, of vegetation
like the peas I add to the holy
trinity of soup—onions, carrots
and celery—along with chicken

stock and smashed garlic and
ham chunks, bringing it to a boil,
the flame cradling the craft entering
the lunar sphere of influence,
beaming back a photo of us on

our tiny blue marble suspended
in the blackness of space, a view
not seen from a human-rated
spacecraft for a half century
on Apollo’s final mission.  

Now as his twin sister nears
the moon, 239,000 miles from
the place we call home, I lower
the flame to simmer, to settle
into humble soup.

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Nov. 19: Garret

As a kid, reading about writers
starving in a garret, I never thought
I’d have one—not starving…
I could not write without snacks
at hand—hummus and veggies,
peanut butter cups, sunflower
cookies—but a garret.

Now here I am with three others
writing up a storm on a sunny day
in a chilly attic room up too many
stairs with the two space heaters
going. I’d plug in the third, but then
we’d risk blowing a fuse, as my
father used to say, though I’m
pretty sure we’re long past fuses
in this place—

a long-ago auto body shop
converted into an arts complex
for theater and poetry and my
little upstairs-no-elevator-space—
where writers gather to chat
and eat (we all write better fed,
I’ve learned) and yes,
write their art out.

I used to call it the garret, but
the friend who lured me here,
having set it up for writers
and later turned it over to me—
she called it the loft, which
sounds cozier.

But on a November morning
the week before Thanksgiving,
it feels garret-like after I climb
the stairs, unlock the door,
turn on the light and pull open
the drapes. I hurry to plug in
the space heaters, set the kettle
to boiling for tea, arrange snacks,

a bit giddy, always, expectant,
ready for people to arrive,
to write what needs to be written,
and be delighted, when we read
aloud, by the warm gift
of unexpected magic.

The loft with Krista Minard writing and our late friend Heide Juchnik’s circa 1899 dictionary standing by.
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Nov. 17: Releasing

As in leasing again? As in letting go?
All of that as I pull clothes out of drawers,
off hangers, wearables I should have donated
years ago when they were semi-fashionable,
when someone might have happily picked up
the midi dress that now looks so hippie-ish…
though everything does come round again
in fashion, in politics.

But I won’t go there. The only blues and reds
I want now are the ones in my hands, each
garment a time-and-place memory of where
it was purchased or worn—the favorite pants
with the just-right pockets that accompanied me
to a hundred college classes, held my office keys
and a pen or two; the silky blouse I wore the night
I read my first poetry book to generous listeners.

But I cannot yet bear to give up the fleecy robe
long past its prime, no longer worn but tucked
away—one of his last gifts to me—nor a couple
of his aloha shirts, and oh, the gray sport coat he
wore when we married in a friend’s living room
39 years ago next month.

It has been more than two decades now
of the gradual letting go—releasing his long
black denim duster and grownup cowboy boots,
echoes of his ranching childhood, packing up
his mother’s sturdy stoneware with galloping
horses and bronc riders for his nephew.

Just a week ago I gave away his last anchor
of a toolbox to my nephew-in-law, a fellow
my fellow would have liked who teaches others
about engines and cars like the old body
of the 1958 Porsche, my husband’s final
project, at last relinquished to a friend who
will one day complete its restoration.

Release comes as hands fold fabric into bags
bound for the thrift store, in looking outside to
note the trees shedding their summer clothes,
too, though I have never known if it’s the tree
that lets go of the leaves or the leaves that
allow themselves to release and flutter
softly, having no idea where they’ll land,
and finding, once they’re there, that
in the end it doesn’t matter.

Liquid amber / Joe Chan / November 2022
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Nov. 16: New range

I suppose I should thank the dirty rats
who decided to nest behind the fancy
range that came to live with me 18 years
ago when I had the kitchen remodeled,

and I definitely need to thank Leaman
the handyman, who has pulled out more
than one appliance as, over too many years,
we’ve tried to flush the rats that didn’t
succumb to traps,

because last week he and I found
the fetid mess behind the fancy range
and called it a total loss, the rats
having eating so much casing off
the wiring and making a cozy nest
that it was, Leaman said, a potential
electrical fire in the making.

And thanks to all this I have learned
that you can order a new stove/oven
online and have the glistening appliance
speedily delivered to a house with
at least one rat who refuses to leave.

I saw her about a week ago—the one
I imagine is a her—when I turned on
the kitchen light in the middle of the night,
her ample brown body scurrying off
the counter by the back door where
the little violets and heart-shaped
cacti live. And though I’ve set traps,
made sure the house is locked up tight,
hired two different pest companies
to get her (I pray it’s just one her)
without success, she has eluded us all.

Yesterday a new range arrived,
and Leaman returned to install it,
gleaming and gorgeous, an hour after
Jason the pest guy came with additional
traps—one of which now hides under
the new stove.

I wonder where she and (God help me)
others like her might still hide in this
old house, sneaky rodentia stealthily
avoiding two cats and me.

If she’d only learn to use a litterbox,
I’ve said for far too long, and quit
destroying appliances, I might not
mind her snacking on cat food
bits I try to sweep up daily. I might
even consider her a pet, think about
giving her a name.

Me and the new GE / Photo by Dick Schmidt (of course)
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Nov. 15: I Love to Write Day

If I’d’a known you could
just create a new holiday
around loving to write,
I’d have done so when

I was about 10, sitting in
the old leaning tower of oak
in my parents’ backyard,
nestled in the crook

of the main trunk and two
slender horizontal arms,
so held by ages of strength,
wisdom and healing,

notebook in lap, having
no idea where the words
came from, just that they
arrived and fell on the page,

transporting me elsewhere,
so happily lost that every
so often I’d fall out of the tree,
rudely brought back to earth.

But it didn’t stop me from
climbing back into those
welcoming arms, settling in
again to write, having no

idea that I was already a
lifelong student of words,
apprenticing at a craft that
pleases me still, that I was

already a writer simply
because I wrote, having no
no idea what I had to say
until the words appeared

under my scribbling
(and eventually typing)
fingers… like this
and this and this.

From the sketchbook of Antsy McClain / 2016
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Nov. 14: National Marie Day

Marie / by Rose

I loved you the first time I saw you
And I always will love you, Marie

—Randy Newman, “Marie”

(for Rose)

I can feel the slide into the booth
in a restaurant in a building
no longer there where
my poet friend Marie and I
would sit and eat and talk,

the time she said, a bit shyly,
“I’m in love,” and my eyebrows
lifted, and before I could ask,
she said, “You may know her,”
and my poet friend blushed,
closer than anyone knew
to the end,

but she and her Rose loved
with such fierce sweetness
in the time that was left that
every time she talked about
her Rose, I saw her thinning,
brittle self soften.

And not many years later when
I came to the house to deliver
the first copy of her book of
poems, the two of them sat
together on the sofa, holding
the slender volume with such
reverence,

Marie, who could barely see,
much less read, by then,
Rose and I blinking hard,
before we two realized that
Marie’s final gift to each of us
before she vanished
was us.

And now Rose and I meet for
dinners, friends who talk and laugh
and, without fail, speak of her
at least once—

we always will love you, Marie

and when we hug goodbye
in the parking lot,
we’re hugging her, too,
grateful for her, thanking her
for the gift.

Chris Thile sings “Marie,” one of my favorite renditions:

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