In America, we drive on the right side of the road. Also, people here generally walk on the right side of the sidewalk, busy hiking trails, even grocery store isles. When I walk along the trails around a nearby lake, I keep to the right side of the path. If I have the trail to myself, I walk right down the middle as if I owned the place.
What is your neighborhood like during the pandemic? Where I am I have noticed giving another pedestrian 6 feet is seen as a courtesy; in the grocery store, offices, parks, etc., keeping your distance is a sign of good manners. It is awkward or rude if a person stands too close to another. Feathers get ruffled.
Earlier this year, before the snowpack in the mountains could build and the rains of the Northwest La Nina winter began, Padden Gorge Trail was dry and quiet. The creek was all but dried up. The cold air chased away many birds and I experienced the eerie sensation of standing in a silent forest.
To The Right second draft
The woods are quiet today I do not hear the rustle of a bird no wind playing at the leaves no foraging of a rodent or the panting of a dog Padden Creek is down to its late summer trickle Everything is off
My ears reach for the sound of people at the lake trail on end with mine I hear no one I haven’t been sleeping lately For a moment I am dream walking zombified in this quiet wood with no direction, no purpose No others to use as a reference or provide a sense of direction No validation of movement or placement
I walk down the canyon trail in silence. surrounded by silence
Then–they find me The crunching roar of off-road bike tires approach me from behind I move to the right The joggers with focused steps and controlled pants I move to the right Two dogs and two owners come at me head-on I move to the right Facedown each time to make sure my breath does not mix with theirs Behind me I hear the steps of another walker I move to the right I’m a slow walker compared to others I know this walker will pass me I wait no walker Then turn to look No one
There are two places on these trails where the sound tricks the ear My own steps sound like another getting ready to pass but it is just me and my steps echoing off the walls of the thick forest
How nice of me to give the same courtesy I give others unknowingly yet, still as sweet
“Mr. Coal operator call me anything you please, blue, green, or red, I aim to see to it that these Kentucky coal miners will not dig your coal while their little children are crying and dying for milk and bread.”
— Aunt Molly Jackson, the ultimate Pistol Packin’ Mama,(1880-1960)
This morning I’m thinking about The Great Depression of the 1930s. Over the course of four years, 1929-1933, the unemployment rate reached its peak to 25% of the population. Today, twelve years after The Great Recession of 2008, America’s unemployment rate is 25%. This morning CNBC reported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged Sunday that the U.S. unemployment rate may have already reached 25% as the administration works to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
I like that word “may”. As if they have no way of telling; probably because the system is so overwhelmed. There is a good chance the government may not actually know how many are without work, without income, have no savings, have not received a stimulus check.
During The Great Depression, there was a union war. The folks that were pro-union were among the bravest souls in history. They stood up for their rights in the face of dire circumstances including starvation and death. Coal miners, exhausted from working +12 hour days, demanded an eight-hour workday, more safety features for the miners, and also a fair wage. Many union members paid with their lives; the henchmen of the owners shooting some on-site!
Like the Aunt Molly Jackson story and song, today there is an injustice, a darkness, that is costing the lives of many, pressed by the heel of greed and power. The worldwide shelter in place mandate emphasizes the hurt that was already here. If the world ever needed the voice of a hero it is now!
Oh, how I wish justice could shine down from heaven like a bolt of lightning and solve all the world’s problems! I am not political or a part of any militia; I am a poet. Designed to observe and report. This is the job of all artists. Although I have no solution, I have an alarm to sound and it is saying the bent branch has split! You can no longer demand buds, flowers, or fruit from what has died! The devotion to the wicked will end quickly! Home of the brave you say? The brave are in neighborhoods donating time and supplies to their neighbors. The brave are working in grocery stores and hospitals. While our leaders lay impotent, the common person once again helps the helpless. Although I understand the solution to COVID-19 & why we shelter in place, I am angered that the epidemic of homelessness, disease, and poverty has festered for decades. In America, WHY is it a constant fight for equal rights, equal pay, a fair living wage, affordable healthcare? Why is that?
All this week Aunt Molly’s song played in my mind while processing some sad news about an acquaintance. The stoic teaching tells me the obstacle is the way. We all have our own gutters to climb out of, I hope I am brave enough to reach out a hero’s hand to those around me.
Here is an old poem I shared with the Poetry Discussion group on Saturday.
Lunch at the Sycamore Square April 2019
Fountain water hits each tier
breaks off into the air
landing on my notebook paper
sprinkles a blank page
A cart of baked bread
rolls by through the courtyard
towards the Italian restaurant
A tourist asks when does
the shoe store open
A dog on leash pisses
on the floor
We all ignore it
even the owner
This photo really touched me. It is my current mood expressed by a news photo. -take care & be well, Shannon
2015 seems like an amplified version of 2014 don’t you think? Except this year we had the added entertainment of an American Presidential race, promotional “stuff” for another Star Wars movie a la Disney, Kim’s booty and the Pope’s world tour to distract us. Finally, sick of the violence and injustice, MORE citizens took to the streets! From Paris, to South Carolina’s Ravenel Bridge to Bellingham Washington, citizens unified in mass against war, terrorism, police violence, and the environment. Round and round we go.
With only a few days left in 2015 it seems the right time to write a Christmas Letter. My mom use to mail an end-of-the-year letter to family and friends, near and far, sharing the highlights of our family’s year. It is in that spirit that I write to you today.
Perhaps you treat these letters like fruit cake. If that’s the case then I leave you here, in the third paragraph, simply wishing you & yours a happy, warm holiday and prosperous new year. Also, it’s important for me to add a BIG Thank You! Thank you for visiting my page and buying SPL poetry.
However, if curiosity is creeping around your ankles, making it’s way up the leg, securing you in your seat for, say, the next five minutes, then I welcome your company. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. You are a “happy personal association” and I welcome your presence.
My Christmas Card movie features the SPL staff at it again. This year we are working as a team to beautify our surroundings, sharing the joy with our neighbors. Living on the 48th parallel our winters are long and dark. The sun sets about 4:30 pm and stays down until 8 in the morning. A string of lights is helpful, happy and welcomed.
Blessings to you and yours & Happy 2016!
~Shannon, Brad, Vince, Robert & Chris.
(Click our photo to watch our home movie)
My Poetic 2015
The year started off in PEACE. On New Years Eve World Peace Poets, Betty, Carla, C.J., Carol and I met at the “Peace Pole” in Fairhaven with another group for peace. We lit candles at dusk, tossed paper crane prayers into the sea, then joined hands in a moment of prayer for the new year.
Later in February all FIVE of the “Peace Sisters” published “Peace Poems, Vol I”. We included an award ceremony with the book launch. There are many people in Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C. who stand for peace and understanding. We wanted to recognize them as “Ambassadors of Peace”
World Peace Poets encourage harmony through words for international writers and promote public readings.
In March my poem “Voice on the Trail” was accepted for a wall display in the Bellingham Repertory Dance Company’s “A Night at the Gallery”
In April I joined in the celebration of “The Bard of Bellingham’s” book launch! Beloved +80 yr old Jim Milstead, a well known poet, (finally) released the much anticipated book of poetry “Collage”. Congrats Jim!
For a second time, it was my (well-protected) pleasure to feature at Western Washington University’s Erotic Poetry Night. Such a fun time!
In May I read at Erica Reed’s Poetry Gallery, representing Village Books Poetry Group. This new, quarterly event allows each of the over 22 poetry groups in the Bellingham area to share for 3-5 minutes. It’s a night of cross-pollination, networking and good words. Erica plans on continuing this event into 2016. Look for it in the community calendars!
June: after an exhilarating experience reading on a street corner for the Bike/Poetry Seattle group Mob Rolls in May, I was hit by lightning! Putting in a call with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, “Poets’ Corner” was born! An exciting new living art display for Art Walk participants. Poets take over a corner, read to the passing masses! Poets’ Corner ran from June-November, co-hosted by Lucas Nydam. It is a fun experiment. Due to the winter weather it is currently on hiatus until April 1, 2016.
Featuring for Everett Poetry Night and Poetry Night in Bellingham within seven days of each other was stimulating to say the least. The audience was warm and accepting, and my books sold! This was my first year featuring for open mics.The change of perspective, audience member to performer, was refreshing. Am I ready for more? I hope so. It’s a great responsibility to feature. The high is amazing and I hope to do it more in 2016.
For July I found myself reaching into new physical and emotional territory. The Lament for the Dead was an 2015 on-line movement about personalizing the victims of police violence. My poem “Wallow in Ashes” was accepted. Also, I returned to my old stomping grounds South King County as a feature poet for Auburn Days. One of my goals for 2015 was to feature outside of Bellingham. I am thankful to Everett and Auburn for letting a circuit-newbie take the stage.
July marked the end of my time at KMRE 102.3 SPARK Radio. I started volunteering with SPARK back in 2011 producing the classic blues show “The Playhouse” that features the blues from 1920-70’s, and occasionally stepping in as an afternoon LIVE DJ, running the “Board of Doom”. Later, in 2013, Jonathan Winter asked me to help him with a show he envisioned where folks that love music share their music story. The New Americana Hour was born! In addition to those two programs I also recorded local poets for an award winning feature called “Poetic Moments”. You can learn more about my radio time at KMRE here. What a wonderful family the Museum of Electrical Invention is! It was hard to say good-bye, but I am thankful to of worked beside some of the northwest’s most influential, giving, and creative characters.
September the Peace Sisters were recognized for their publication and “Read-In” events by Writers International Network . The ceremony was held in Richmond, British Columbia along with recipient poets and artists from India, Mexico, Korea, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. I am moved and very thankful to WIN for this award.
October was an amazing month. October 2015 marked my fifth year in Bellingham. I am touched by the kindness this community has shown me. I wanted to give back and do it the “Bellingham Way” = do it for charity.
I wanted to coordinate a musical album featuring artists from Bellingham and Seattle, but would any band want to be on it? And WHAT charity would be the benefactor? Then, these two questions were answered within a week of each other. Many band members I contacted grew up with music in the home and/or were introduced to music through a school program. These programs cost money. Blue Skies for Children helps low-income, homeless and foster children in Whatcom County with music lessons and musical instrument rentals. The 17 bands that donated songs to this album are “paying it forward” for future musicians. In October “Blue Skies for Bellingham” was released in time for the Blue Skies for Children charity auction.
“This album together with the original cover art by esteemed painter/musician Meghan Yates, are submissions for Blue Skies for Children’s Annual Dinner and Charity Auction. All seventeen bands are from Bellingham or frequent the Bellingham area. All proceeds go to the Our Little Wishes Instrument Loaner and Enrichment Programs. These programs provide local homeless, low-income and foster children ages six to eighteen for music lessons and musical instrument rental to help increase hope and raise self-esteem.”
Also in October World Peace Poets hosted our 3 rd annual “Read-In”. November and December I read at a new hookah bar Cafe Bouzingo, and the first “Noisy Waters” reading at the Mt. Baker Encore Room, and returned to Auburn to feature at the Auburn Arts Association Poetry Open Mic.
Fall 2016 I’ll release my third poetry book “Fallen” and I hope to get more feature gigs on the books. I also have a few secret projects I’m working on–one includes a phone booth, another a hair artist, painter and fifty sets of crunches a day, and a NEW radio program for KVWV, Bellingham. My body, mind and spirit in top form—yep. That’s what I’m looking forward to in ’16.
Thanks for walking with me through this year. (dang that took a long time!) Have I mentioned how THANKFUL I am?