Poem: Dust

 Bands

sunbeams

twinkle with

flecks of our skin

rubbed off from touch, rubbed off

 as dry soil spinning from a sedimentary cliff

layers of time pressed into the stripes we call days

2f0c1-lower_antelope
Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

***

Poetry: Refugio’s Hair

 One of my favorite poems…

Refugio’s Hair
In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera– The Land of the Lime–
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carols lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrin
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse’s rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the alamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep.

 

by Alberto Rios

Alberto Rios Poetry

At last night at Chuckanut Sandstone’s open mic, Sandra F. Lucke shared the work of poet Alberto Rios.  Carla, the group leader, read his poem “Refugio’s Hair” and the world shook!
This wonderful poet makes his home in Sedona, AZ.  Ríos is a Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, where he has taught for over 30 years and where he holds the further distinction of the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English. 
With lines like “Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife” it’s no wonder Alberto has won so many awards! 
Had to share this poem with you today. Get ready, here it comes! 

Refugio’s Hair
In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera– The Land of the Lime–
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carols lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrin
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse’s rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the alamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep.
Alberto Rios

The Coffee Ghost

Thinking of my dad today; this little story from 2010:

The Dream
lake in the morning shone like polished glass. Looking around, the sun was peeking through the trees, shooting rays of light through the ground fog. Above, the clouds were changing colors like a slow moving kaleidoscope. Taking a deep breath of that full fresh mountain air, I knew this was one of the best sunrises ever witnessed.

Disturbing the symphony of the bird’s charming mating calls; my boots seemed so noisy and rude…

*crunch* *crunch* *crunch*

…walking out of the cabin and down to the car on the gravel driveway. The noise seemed so out of tune with the rest of the events I knew I’d have to compensate later with a quiet book reading in the chair on the covered porch that faced the lake. What a fantastic punishment. Taking the keys out of my flannel jacket was like a symbol clashing, but I was committed to reach the trunk and retrieve the items their in.

The key turned and inside the trunk to my surprise were kittens! Fifty happy furry little kittens. “Oh my goodness! How did you sillies get in here? I told you to stay home.” The kittens over took me and soon all fifty-one of us were on the ground playing and purring up a storm. Could this morning get any better?

And then I smelt it. The most beautiful smell in the world. Emanating from the cabin was this incredible ambrosia-like smell of coffee. The best coffee in the world. The smell of warmth and love drew me, seduced me, and called to me like a siren to a sailor. Someone is up and is making coffee, I thought, oh the fragrance from heaven!

Awake
My eyes opened to focus on my bedroom ceiling, the beam and a ceiling fan staring back. It was all just a dream, just a wonderful dream. But, a quick inventory of sorts made me realize part of it wasn’t a dream. Coffee?! I quickly looked over at the clock. It was 4 o’clock in the morning, why did my house smell like wonderful coffee. My mom was staying over that week and I’m telling you she is a true fan of that java mixture of champions. Before her arrival I had purchased plenty of beans and cream to help make her feel welcomed. The coffee pot in the kitchen was set up, and timer ready to go on at six. Hmmm… let’s go take a look-see.

Using my toes as radar I crossed our dark living room, weaving around some furniture but walking a straight a line as possible in the quickest fashion towards the kitchen. Locating the coffee pot with ease thanks to a night light I discovered that the coffee pot was NOT on. “Interesting.” Oh well, back to bed. Moving in the opposite direction that I had just arrived to that corner of the house, I found the warmth and comfort of my bed and quickly went back to my trunk full of kittens by the lake.

The next morning, in real life, the family found themselves gathering around the kitchen table making morning small talk. Without going into too much detail for fear of seeming strange I causally mentioned that I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of coffee and thought the coffee pot had started brewing two hours early.

“That’s interesting Shannon,” my mom said, “I did the same thing.”

With a quick chuckle, my husband, said, “You know that IS funny. I got up and checked the coffee also.”

“Wow, I wish I had a cup of what I smelled last night. It was the best coffee ever. Our neighbor works the night shift I bet it came over from their house, or something.”

This was my mom’s second visit to Arizona so we had a nice agenda of places to see and visit while she was in town. Summer was just around the corner and the perfect time to be in the desert. Not too many Washingtonians can handle the 105 degree weather that the summer brings; it takes a while to get acclimated. Prolong exposure to the heat also destroys the webbing between the digits, a real pain to grow them back.

It had been over a year since her first visit, but I had recently seen her at dad’s funeral in February. In 2005 my father John had passed away, after struggling with lung disease. Dad had a wry sense of humor and a cutting wit that could catch people off guard. On family road trips he would alert the family “Looks like we’re close to Coffee Mountain.” Why dad? “Because we just passed a sign that said “Doughnut Pass”. Groooaannnn! “Dad!” He’d sit up there behind the steering wheel and chuckle at his own joke. He was a real character, is greatly missed and long remembered.

After lunch mom and I found a sunny spot in the front of the house and started to chat some time away while we waited for the kids to come home from school. Drinking coffee of course. Stopping myself in mid sip I raised my hand to my eyes to keep them from popping out of my head. Behind my mom, through the window and mingling among the Oleanders was the most beautiful Pheasant I had ever seen. We had lived in that neighborhood for over three years; the most exotic birds were flocks of grey doves’ coo, coo, cooing in the yard all day. “Mom, there’s a pheasant in the yard!” We went outside and watched as this laid back fowl just took a Sunday stroll around the corner and down the street, never to be seen again.

“Mom, I think that was dad.” Mom’s eyes stared at me; over the rim of her glasses with the look only mom’s have the power to give. “No I’m serious. The coffee smell and that bird- I think it’s dad saying Hi.”

Since that “visit” the coffee ghost continues to come by, at random moments, in the middle of the night, waking us from our dreams. I no longer race to the kitchen to check the dysfunction of a kitchen appliance, now I just roll over in the warm bed and smile.

Bird Brain

There is a celebrated free concert available to anyone who lives near trees. Songbirds create a relaxing atmosphere, a symphony of background noise that only nature itself could conduct. The soothing effects are almost immediate; a lower heart beat, a happier disposition, and a smile on your face.

In the winter my yard is quiet, almost too quiet. I’ll find that I tend to turn on music or hum more during those dark months. Perhaps I hum more because I miss the sound of constant summer songs that seem to emanate from the trees themselves? Humans sing to their children, with each other, and to themselves much like birds do. Is there a correlation between the bird’s brain and ours?

Studies of the mockingbird have shown that there could be. Ornithologists have found that mockingbird species living in unpredictable climates, such as a desert, tend have more elaborate songs than those living in more stable climates. Songs are used to attract mates; a mockingbird has the unique ability to create, copy and “make up” variations of songs. It’s believed the female may choose a male based on the differences in his song, interpreting it as a sign of strength and intelligence. This is highly relevant to human behavior because some believe there is a connection between the development of the bird’s brain and our own. Human displays of language, the arts and music might have evolved through a similar process.

As I was considering the social pressures that might have caused the mockingbird to over perform, somehow my “bird brain” made the connection with humans surviving in unpredictable climates, and the artistic outcomes of those experiences. My mind wondered through the planets “hot spots” marveling at Russian painters, Polish pottery, hand painted beads of Ghana, and the woven fabrics of Peru. Just like I would sing to myself more often in the winter, the cultures that live in harsh conditions tend to have a more colorful lifestyle. Different levels of expression, but expression none the less.

When I lived in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona for example, I loved the painted freeways. What an unexpected surprise! Instead of a drab cement grey the corridors are painted pleasant colors of purple, peach, yellow, red and green. I also noticed a breath of life in the talavera pottery, jewelry, traditional clothing, and home decor. Could cultures that developed in unpredictable climates develop a richer more colorful environment? It seems that way.

This summer I view the song birds with a new eye and ear. Is that a flock of Chickadees in the tree or a mariachi band? Either way it’s the sound of life!

Bird Brain

Last summer when the Chickadees were returning to my grove, I was inspired to write this little article about birds. One of my favorites from 2010. Enjoy!

There is a celebrated free concert available to anyone who lives near trees. Songbirds create a relaxing atmosphere, a symphony of background noise that only nature itself could conduct. The soothing effects are almost immediate; a lower heart beat, a happier disposition, and a smile on your face.

In the winter my yard is quiet, almost too quiet. I’ll find that I tend to turn on music or hum more during those dark months. Perhaps I hum more because I miss the sound of constant summer songs that seem to emanate from the trees themselves? Humans sing to their children, with each other, and to themselves much like birds do. Is there a correlation between the bird’s brain and ours?

Studies of the mockingbird have shown that there could be. Ornithologists have found that mockingbird species living in unpredictable climates, such as a desert, tend have more elaborate songs than those living in more stable climates. Songs are used to attract mates; a mockingbird has the unique ability to create, copy and “make up” variations of songs. It’s believed the female may choose a male based on the differences in his song, interpreting it as a sign of strength and intelligence. This is highly relevant to human behavior because some believe there is a connection between the development of the bird’s brain and our own. Human displays of language, the arts and music might have evolved through a similar process.

As I was considering the social pressures that might have caused the mockingbird to over perform, somehow my “bird brain” made the connection with humans surviving in unpredictable climates, and the artistic outcomes of those experiences. My mind wondered through the planets “hot spots” marveling at Russian painters, Polish pottery, hand painted beads of Ghana, and the woven fabrics of Peru. Just like I would sing to myself more often in the winter, the cultures that live in harsh conditions tend to have a more colorful lifestyle. Different levels of expression, but expression none the less.

Living in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona for example, I loved the painted freeways. What an unexpected surprise! Instead of a drab cement grey the corridors are painted pleasant colors of purple, peach, yellow, red and green.

I also noticed a breath of life in the talavera pottery, jewelry, traditional clothing, and home décor. Could cultures that developed in unpredictable climates develop a richer more colorful environment? It seems that way. This summer I view the song birds with a new eye and ear. Is that a flock of Chickadees in the tree or a mariachi band? Either way it’s the sound of life!

***

Bird Brain

There is a celebrated free concert available to anyone who lives near trees. Songbirds create a relaxing atmosphere, a symphony of background noise that only nature itself could conduct. The soothing effects are almost immediate; a lower heart beat, a happier disposition, and a smile on your face.

In the winter my yard is quiet, almost too quiet. I’ll find that I tend to turn on music or hum more during those dark months. Perhaps I hum more because I miss the sound of constant summer songs that seem to emanate from the trees themselves? Humans sing to their children, with each other, and to themselves much like birds do. Is there a correlation between the bird’s brain and ours?

Studies of the mockingbird have shown that there could be. Ornithologists have found that mockingbird species living in unpredictable climates, such as a desert, tend have more elaborate songs than those living in more stable climates. Songs are used to attract mates; a mockingbird has the unique ability to create, copy and “make up” variations of songs. It’s believed the female may choose a male based on the differences in his song, interpreting it as a sign of strength and intelligence. This is highly relevant to human behavior because some believe there is a connection between the development of the bird’s brain and our own. Human displays of language, the arts and music might have evolved through a similar process.

As I was considering the social pressures that might have caused the mockingbird to over perform, somehow my “bird brain” made the connection with humans surviving in unpredictable climates, and the artistic outcomes of those experiences. My mind wondered through the planets “hot spots” marveling at Russian painters, Polish pottery, hand painted beads of Ghana, and the woven fabrics of Peru. Just like I would sing to myself more often in the winter, the cultures that live in harsh conditions tend to have a more colorful lifestyle. Different levels of expression, but expression none the less.

Living in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona for example, I loved the painted freeways. What an unexpected surprise! Instead of a drab cement grey the corridors are painted pleasant colors of purple, peach, yellow, red and green. I also noticed a breath of life in the talavera pottery, jewelry, traditional clothing, and home décor. Could cultures that developed in unpredictable climates develop a richer more colorful environment? It seems that way. This summer I view the song birds with a new eye and ear. Is that a flock of Chickadees in the tree or a mariachi band? Either way it’s the sound of life!

The Coffee Ghost


The Coffee Ghost

The lake in the morning shone like polished glass. Looking around, the sun was peeking through the trees, shooting rays of light through the ground fog. Above, the clouds were changing colors like a slow moving kaleidoscope. Taking a deep breath of that full fresh mountain air, I knew this was one of the best sunrises ever witnessed.
Disturbing the symphony of the bird’s charming mating calls; my boots seemed so noisy and rude…
*crunch* *crunch* *crunch*
…walking out of the cabin and down to the car on the gravel driveway. The noise seemed so out of tune with the rest of the events I knew I’d have to compensate later with a quiet book reading in the chair on the covered porch that faced the lake. What a fantastic punishment. Taking the keys out of my flannel jacket was like a symbol clashing, but I was committed to reach the trunk and retrieve the items their in.
The key turned and inside the trunk to my surprise were kittens! Fifty happy furry little kittens. “Oh my goodness! How did you sillies get in here? I told you to stay home.” The kittens over took me and soon all fifty-one of us were on the ground playing and purring up a storm. Could this morning get any better?
And then I smelt it. The most beautiful smell in the world. Emanating from the cabin was this incredible ambrosia-like smell of coffee. The best coffee in the world. The smell of warmth and love drew me, seduced me, and called to me like a siren to a sailor. Chris is up and he’s making coffee… I thought, oh the fragrance from heaven! Chanting Coffee, coffee, coffee… I floated towards the cabin door.
My eyes opened to focus on my bedroom ceiling, the beam and a ceiling fan staring back. It was all just a dream, just a wonderful dream. But, a quick inventory of sorts made me realize part of it wasn’t a dream. Coffee?! I quickly looked over at the clock. It was 4 o’clock in the morning, why did my house smell like wonderful coffee. My mom was staying over that week and I’m telling you she is a true fan of that java mixture of champions. Before her arrival I had purchased plenty of beans and cream to help make her feel welcomed. The coffee pot in the kitchen was set up, and timer ready to go on at six. Hmmm… let’s go take a look-see.
Using my toes as radar I crossed our dark living room, weaving around some furniture but walking a straight a line as possible in the quickest fashion towards the kitchen. Locating the coffee pot with ease thanks to a night light I discovered that the coffee pot was NOT on. “Interesting.” Oh well, back to bed. Moving in the opposite direction that I had just arrived to that corner of the house, I found the warmth and comfort of my bed and quickly went back to my trunk full of kittens by the lake.
The next morning, in real life, the family found themselves gathering around the kitchen table making morning small talk. Without going into too much detail for fear of seeming strange I causally mentioned that I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of coffee and thought the coffee pot had started brewing two hours early.
“That’s interesting Shannon,” my mom said, “I did the same thing.”
With a quick chuckle, Christopher, said, “You know that IS funny. I got up and checked the coffee also.”
“Wow, I wish I had a cup of what I smelled last night. It was the best coffee ever. Our neighbor works the night shift I bet it came over from their house, or something.”

This was my mom’s second visit to Arizona so we had a nice agenda of places to see and visit while she was in town. Summer was just around the corner and the perfect time to be in the desert. Not too many Washingtonians can handle the 105 degree weather that the summer brings; it takes a while to get acclimated. Prolong exposure to the heat also destroys the webbing between the digits, a real pain to grow them back.
It had been over a year since her first visit, but I had recently seen her at dad’s funeral in February. In 2005 my father John had passed away, after struggling with lung disease. Dad had a wry sense of humor and a cutting wit that could catch people off guard. On family road trips he would alert the family “Looks like we’re close to Coffee Mountain.” Why dad? “Because we just passed a sign that said “Doughnut Pass”. Groooaannnn! “Dad!” He’d sit up there behind the steering wheel and chuckle at his own joke. He was a real character, is greatly missed and long remembered.
After lunch mom and I found a sunny spot in the front of the house and started to chat some time away while we waited for the kids to come home from school. Drinking coffee of course. Stopping myself in mid sip I raised my hand to my eyes to keep them from popping out of my head. Behind my mom, through the window and mingling amongst the Oleanders was the most beautiful Pheasant I had ever seen. We had lived in that neighborhood for over three years; the most exotic birds were flocks of grey doves’ coo, coo, cooing in the yard all day. “Mom, there’s a pheasant in the yard!” We went outside and watched as this laid back fowl just took a Sunday stroll around the corner and down the street, never to be seen again.
“Mom, I think that was dad.” Mom’s eyes stared at me, over the rim of her glasses with the look only mom’s have the power to give. “No I’m serious. The coffee smell and that bird- I think it’s dad saying Hi.”
Since that “visit” the coffee ghost continues to come by, at random moments, in the middle of the night, waking us from our dreams. I no longer race to the kitchen to check the dysfunction of a kitchen appliance, now I just roll over in the warm bed and smile.