Poem: The Reading


mila plaickner garden party
Art Credit: Mila Plaickner, “Garden Party”


The moon rises

above an arched gate.

he reads poems

in front of stiff-tall bamboo

near the unfinished garden shed.

we sit in dining chairs

aligned with the patio bricks.

open-mouth-smiles perfume the air

with beer and burgundy.

squirrels rush the branches—

applaud too soon.

A vine past its bloom

crawls on a trellis,

the root appears dead

yet the live ends

are laden with leaf.


-by Shannon P. Laws

Poem: Many Old Men Surround Me



Many Old Men Surround Me


They follow me at poetry groups

show up at open mics

Behind me on the sidewalk

they hobble quick to catch up


Old men sit in the booth

one over, listen to me talk

politely nod “Good bye”

when I leave the restaurant


Gray haired drivers slow

me down in the 40 mile per hour zones

force me to pass them

stare disapproval as I blur home


Never had a grandpa,

Now life surrounds me with them


Butterscotch candies in their sweater pockets

Smiles flash multicolored teeth

Hands, soft, rubbed shinny smooth

spotted with liver marks wave hello


Perhaps these men

never had a daughter

Little Words

MC Escher Three Worlds I
M.C. Escher Three Worlds, 1955

This morning I am thinking about a friend I use to know, when I lived in a different town.  I’ll call her “N”.  N has brain damage caused by an accident and a stroke.  I do not know how or when she got it; I never asked.  N has a speech tick, which means she communicates using only three, very limited sentences:  “Oh well”, “Oh, I don’t know about that”, and “Yes”.  She only shakes her head for “No”.

She smiles constantly.  It’s rare to see her frown or upset, because little upsets her.  N’s smile, crooked as it is, is horribly contagious.  She uses it to every advantage, often for non-verbal communication, such as *smile* Yes, I want that book, or *smile* More water please.

“Oh well” is her favorite phrase to use.  If we were playing a game and she didn’t win, Oh well.  If her drink spills over, Oh well.  She says the phrase in the exact tone, with open arms, EVERY TIME.  N and I met up about once a week for over a year.  In a “normal” relationship we would have known too much about each other by then, instead we built up a “getting use to each other” bond.


Working as the weekend activities coordinator at a convalescent home, I grew to like N.  She was always a participant at the Sunday afternoon group BINGO.  Often after group activities were over I would read to her.  There was something more behind those eyes that made me curious.  I just didn’t feel like it my place to ask too many personal questions about her, so I didn’t.  However, the artifacts in her room gave a few hints of her life before the brain damage.  For example, on the middle of the wall, in clear view, space is committed to her full-nude self portrait, tastefully done in an abstract watercolor.  Judging by the style and frame it looked like it was from the late 1970’s.  She appears as a strong, confident woman, proud of her body.  Was N a feminist?

Many photos of her family, her children and grandchildren rest among books on the shelves, books about art, other languages, foreign countries, murder mysteries.  The frayed edges on the paperbacks suggest she’s read them all.  Sadly, the stroke took away her ability to read.  She holds her books, quietly in her lap; she loves to hold them, open to a page just right of middle.


One month I was depressed.  After realizing my 20 year marriage was over, I walked around in a zombie state, adjusting to the thought of it.  Everything was foggy.   I analyzed and over analyzed everything.

It was fall, the season that readies us for winter.  I continued to see N.  Her big smile lit up my day.  Her unending, seemingly, optimistic attitude encouraged me.  However, I did not believe she was capable of recognizing my mood, the slight change in my behavior, until one day.

An afternoon in October, I wheeled her back to her bedroom after a BINGO game.  She smiled at me to open her curtains.  N has a wonderful garden view.  When I pushed back the curtains I was shocked to see the whole yard was covered in large, orange maple leafs!

“Wow!” I proclaimed from the window, “N, look at your yard!  All the leaves have fallen down!”

The majestic maple, older than the building we stood in, was barren of foliage.  Black branch tips wiggled like horse whips in the wind.  The once lush and lively view of iris stocks, azaleas, rhododendrons and lawn was gone, buried beneath the tree’s litter, cancelling out any hint of green.

She looked out.  Then at me.  Then out again.  Our eyes met.

With comical timing she opened her arms―“Oh well.”

We laughed together.  Her comment touched a tender spot in my heart, tears came down my face.

Tears came down N’s smiling face.

She was crying with me.

And I was thankful.



Time for Ham

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

2013 marks the fifth anniversary of my blog “Madrona Grove”.  In a moment of reflection I found much to be thankful for, and did not need to look far to find faces of many good friends who have blessed my personal timeline.  Life is a journey, always better with company.  So to follow a MG tradition I’m posting my Ham blog.  Posted every holiday for about four years now, this little TRUE story shows up bringing with it a reminder of how important tradition is, but that knowing WHY we do what we do is just as important as the performance.

The boys, oh, I mean the SPLaws office staff, and I are working on our Christmas video card that will post here soon.  Please keep an eye out for it.  Until then keep warm, be happy… and leave the ends ON!  ~SPL


OK, true story:

One holiday four generations of family are all gathered together in the youngest daughter’s new home for a rare time together. This is her first time hosting a family dinner. Her mom is helping her with the ham.

The daughter plops the large ham into its pan and asks the mom, “OK what do we do next?”
“Well,” answered the mom, “first thing we need to do is cut off the ends of the ham, just the sides about 2 inches worth.”
“Why?”, asks the daughter.
“I don’t know, but my mom always did it, and her ham’s turn out great every time.”

They call the girls grandma in, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends of the ham before cooking?”

“Gosh, I don’t know why. Never thought of it. MY mother always cut the ends off, so that’s how I’ve always done it. How funny.”

The three ladies quickly walk out to the living room to find the girl’s great-grandmother sitting and talking with family.
“G.G. I have a question for you. Why do you cut the ends of the ham off?”

“Well, I don’t know why YOU cut the ends of the ham off, but I had to cut the ends off or it wouldn’t fit into my oven!”

It’s good to know WHY you do what you do, 
so that you don’t waste any ham.
Happy Christmas! 

Ladybugs Day Out

For the past two months or so I have been doing what I can to support a friend whose husband is very ill.  I’m not too good in these situations, but I am pretty skilled at just sitting there and providing company.  Went to visit them both at the hospital the other week.  It was a long day.

At lunch my friend and I went to the hospital cafeteria, then took a walk through the gardens located in an open air space in the center of the hospital.  This slender green “room” with a koi pond, mature trees and benches for meditation, surrounded by four stories of hospital windows was more comfortable than a waiting room.

The two of us sat and talked; well I should say she talked and I sat.  While she spoke I looked at the sky, I watched the tree branches, new with spring leaves, blow in the wind, I stared at my feet…

After an hour of sitting in this lush rectangular room, I noticed a ladybug walking across the cement path.  The cement had squared grid of groves, at the appropriate places, formed when it was first poured.  Straight lines, that in my mind, would make a quicker path for the bug to get to the safe haven of hedges that lined each side.

The ladybug just walked, randomly, as if lost.  Wobble. Wobble.  Meandering about as best those little legs could maneuver.  It was relaxing to watch.

“What am I going to do?” said my friend, “I am so worried, and stressed, haven’t slept in two days.”

Wobble. Wobble.

We both sat in silence, watching the ladybug negotiate the crossing of a straight line ravine, missing the turn towards a quicker route along the canyon wall.  Somehow it seemed to talk to me.  I know my friend was also watching it.  What was it saying?

Perhaps, something like “Its the journey in life that is valuable, not speed” or the opposite, “Simplify your life by taking the proven straight paths, so you don’t get lost like -a ladybug on a sidewalk.”

How simple life’s journey seems when viewed from above.

Before we left I picked up the ladybug with a twig and placed it onto the hedge. Why didn’t the bug fly here?

This was just one of those days, one of those moments I couldn’t shake.  The image of that afternoon has stayed with me.

Assumptions? I made many.  I assumed the ladybug was lost, unable to fly, lonely, hungry looking for food, a friend or a mate.

Well, maybe, just maybe, the ladybug was out for a walk…

Poetry: Table Lamp

Table Lamp

Lamp with beads
around the edge,
decorations designed 
to reflect light,
accent the bulbs 
heavy brass base
keeps the stand from 
falling.  fabric leaks 
out just enough
rays to comfort the 
warm glow bounces 
off your cheek as 
we talk.  steam from 
a tea cup mists the
     This is a gentle memory