Squawk!

Happy Valley- a poet walks among you!  She walks down the middle of your streets in search of a coffee house that opens at 7—preferably one that has blueberry scones…

clinta48588
Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, 1966

Last few weeks my inner dialogue seems to have a Wheeling Virginian cigar hanging out the corner of its mouth, almost as if I am internalizing a Clint Eastwood character from a 1960’s spaghetti western.  This dialogue surfaces as a distaste for sidewalks apparently.

My urban bird watching continues to provide rewards.  This morning I took a right on 17th and saw a collection of Steller’s  Jays sitting on the corner of a low rooftop chatting away.  It was about 6:45 in the morning and I imagined they were having a bird meeting about bugs, feeders and crows.  Two of the birds looked smaller than the other three.  Are they young-lings getting trained?  What surprised me the most about this conversation was the low volume.  Steller’s are known for their loud “SQUAWK!” The kind of squawk that can wake you out of a nap, bring your shoulders up in a cringe, and your finger to involuntarily enter your ear in an attempt to protect the lobe.  It’s an annoying sound.  The bird’s feather mohawk fits the personality perfectly.  They thrash about the stage of any backyard bird feeder violently tossing seeds all over and chasing the other birds away—a real punk of the bird community.  Yet here they are, five of them, quietly chatting away making little gargle sounds and tapping their beaks together in salutations.

Around the corner three crows sit on a wire quietly eavesdropping.  Bird espionage.

stellers3ce065
“SQUAWK!”

Later today I am attending my cousin’s funeral.  Family on my dad’s side is flying in.  There is an old joke about us Irish-types: we suffer from Irish Alzheimer’s, we only remember the grudges.

This morning after four days of anxiety, I’m different, peaceful, after my walk.  In the past I felt like a boxer getting into the ring prior to a family get-together …not today.  My mind makes a connection between these birds and the family.  The childhood stereotypes of each family member squawks at me.  However childhood memories are distorted by time.  Even our mind’s eye remembers event at the low angel of a 12 year old.  Adults are bigger than life!  Old memories, we all have of some variety, knit themselves deep into our hearts.  Every so once-in-a-while a box of yarn, cut up, knotted up and tangled, is dropped off at our doorstep demanding to be segregated and deciphered.  Who did what to who, and who’s to blame?

Fuck that.  Don’t take the bait.

Today as I travel into Anacortes with my brother, in our funeral attire, I leave my tangled box of yarn at the door.  I will approach my family, especially the ones I haven’t seen in decades, with fresh eyes and “quiet” conversation.  We have all changed in one degree or another.  The fabric of our hearts are knitted by natures stitch.  The natural bond of family is greater than the artificial polyester strings of misunderstandings and hate.

I love my family.

Squawks and all.

HEART-SHAMROCK

 

 

Christmas Eve Walk

The legs of the pier were standing on the sky.  The bay water thick, and the activity of what plays in it a mystery to my eye.  Clouds and patches of blue, just fainting from the late afternoon, spread over the waves.  
Sky dancing on the Sea

Various sea fowl floated along, feet paddle as rudders, guide them wherever they want to go.  Where did they want to go?  Were the birds out for a walk?  A walk before dusk, before the sun sets and they sleep in nests I cannot guess to know the location?  What sort of blood would a water bird have to not freeze up on a day like this?  
I need to know all of this, wondering about everything I see, today this walk distracts me, I am filled with wonder!
I walk.  I walk alone.  Determined to cry if I wanted, if the tears came.  If the tears rise up inside me, I would let them flow, because I was alone, and I would allowed it.  It did not bother me myself too heavy, that my scarf and hat did not match, that my shoes had a small tear in the left toe, because I was alone, and I am happy.  I am happy and comfortable with myself.  Right now, I am happy and free and I feel like crying tears of happiness… 
Or is it the cold wind finding it’s way to 
the water I carry behind my iris?  
Pulling drops out with each blink, 
as gentle as a Grandmother in her kitchen.
I want to hug this damn planet.  This scene on the waterfront.  ‘Effing Christmas Eve and people are drinking hot chocolate, walking with family, friends, and their dogs.  People are happy here.  Right here!  Right now!
A dog off leash barks a happy hello to me, as if it knows me, as if we are long lost friends, separated on a trip to France, torn apart by war, each thought the other dead, but now- discover the other is alive!  
It’s the happiest bark I have ever had the privilege of receiving.  
The Happiest Dog EVER

The black lab, walks quickly towards me and brushes my left leg like a hug, tail wagging, tongue dripping out of its open mouth, nose pointing, below the dock, below on the beach- a young German Sheppard is playing fetch with its owners.  The Sheppard barks a hello back to my long lost friend.  How easy it is to understand the language of “dog”.  They are simple.

I walk from Fairhaven, along the pier to Boulevard Park, around the loop and then back towards my car.  I see all sorts of people; joggers, walkers, strollers, families, people of all ages.  No otters today, only birds floating on the sky.

Sea Otters on Vacation

I imagine a post card from the Otters, a photo of a furry family floating on Californian sea kelp, “Having fun, fish you were here”
I stop where the pier bends uphill, away from the water.  Then I see it- just there, right over there, between the spit I can walk to, and an island across the bay, …just there in a “V” shaped, black land-line at the horizon, is the glow of the winter sun setting.  A peach, then pink, soon dark purple, then stars.  I stare at it for a while.
A walker-lady stops and asks me, “Do you see anything interesting?”

“No, nothing today, not even the otters”

***

Poetry: Evening Walk

EVENING WALK
In an evening walk
I’ll calculate my next move
Coordinate my conversations
Consider the risks
Conceive inspiration
An evening walk will
Tidy my head
Warm my heart
Make my nose run
Red scarf flies like a flag
Of freedom and life
Wrapped around me
Coiled across my mouth
That’s speaking only fog
Under the street lights
I travel across time
The sidewalk is my path
Street signs guide me
The alleyway home
Lights the runway
Motion detection working
At every gate
In MOTION I am
Night walking

*a favorite poem from 2012

***

Seagulls- 1, Crows- 0

Bellingham is an interesting place to live.  If you do not agree, I recommend an early walk around the neighborhood.  Remnants of our lively nightlife are evident in the early hours.  Left overs like a cigarette butt nest of empty beer bottles near the last step of an apartment building, and used rubbers, hint to a friendly exchange.  As a writer I wonder about a scene like that.  I mean HOW does THAT happen?  Was the cheap beer and loose conversation so titillating that it climaxed into a midnight, sidewalk escapade?  Hmmmm…. how many licks does it take to get to the center of it?  We may never know.

The Walk: Part 1
This morning I noticed some clouds were sleepy, clinging to the Earth like a warm blanket.  Ground fog rests silently in the hills around my neighborhood.
A van full of everything someone owns, even the owner.  Slumped over, fast asleep, no blanket for him, two coats of insulation.
Dew still on the grass, and the crows and seagulls are talking to each other.  Caws versus shrieks; calls of our hilltops wrestle with the sound of the sea.  Turning the corner a large black garbage bag from the baseball stadium rips open; guts of popcorn and half eaten hot dogs spill out.  Five seagulls watch guard over it.  With those regal heads and crisp beaks, like soldiers guarding a fort.
On the next corner, a cherry tree shows off its early fruit.  Yellow, blending to orange, by fall cherry red will be visually defined.
Next block over, I tip toe by another man asleep in his car.  Blue Ford Escort Wagon is his address.  Two in one morning, and just a rock toss from a homeless tent camp a few evergreens over.
Signs For Rent.  For Rent.  For Rent.
The morning birds tweet it up above me, reminding me of the proverb to be more like them.

The Walk: Part II
At the trail head two police cars mark the entrance.  What’s happened, I wonder…  but continue on.
Is this trail closed?
Well, we believe there to be a group of people held up in one of these warehouses.  We’re bringing in the dogs here in a bit.  Might be better for you to walk someplace else.
Yep-
Turning around up towards the stadium.  Trekking over a silent creek.  Full of water, the surface so still you could dance on it.  More birds tweeting, reminding me again to be happy and content.
The Walk: Part III
I continue my walk. Up hill towards home, my legs appreciate the work out, blood moves, waking me up.  There’s a Bike Ride for Cancer event happening this weekend.  Arrow signs point the route, matches my own, although I suppose I am walking only for myself this morning.
As I cross the final stretch an empty box of tomatoes is sitting in the middle of a large parking lot.  It’s contents smashed up around it.  Not the first time I saw this.  It takes weeks for tomatoes to disappear from blacktop.  I imagine that a troupe of Midnight Tomato Fighters meets here for a monthly la Tomatina smashing!  Do they wear team colors or is it one for all?  So many questions.  So many issues.
Towns are complex, fun, strange, quiet, loud and beautiful.
What a walk.  What a town.

Star Berries

Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  The day before New Year’s 2013 my eyes are everywhere but the stars.  I feel like I’m in the gutter.  I am one of an estimated two million in the U.S. whose emergency unemployment benefits ended December 29th.  Now, when I was laid off from my job last March, the company gave us an official 30 days notice.  My government, however, gave folks two weeks’ notice, two weeks before Christmas, that the payments may end 12/29/12*.  On New Year Night, millions waited to see what the Congress and Senate would pull out of their ass on the eleventh hour.  It was time for a walk.

I walked down the hill toward the creek, but on this day I yearned for a new adventure.  Turning right I headed for Whatcom Falls, round trip journey is just under four miles.  The wind was light that morning and carried the scent of snow from the foothills twenty miles east.  Overcast clouds, bounce white light around the barren branches in the woods of deciduous trees that hug the walk; the bark black-wet and silent.  Deciduous means “Falling off at maturity”.  I think on this for a while.  Perhaps maturity means accepting the seasonal changes life rotates through our world, even the ugly ones.
Crows caw at Seagulls as the two families compete for stale bread thrown into the road.  The first hill rises up ahead of me; my mouth opens to take in more air as the legs dig into the incline.  Passing an old white Ford truck, parked on the curb, a waft of “dirty engine” blows across the nose.  I take the history into the lungs and carry it with me across Woburn Street.  The trails trick me as they wind aroundpass a brook that I could hear, but not see.  Oh you little spell spinner, I think.
Suddenly I find myself at the foot of a cemetery hill facing 60 or so tombstones.  This cemetery is known for its weeping angels and walking ghosts.  In the mind’s eye the dead are ghosting about enjoying the day; some sitting on their stones, resting, others socializing.  My presence startles them; their heads turn to look at what has stumbled in.  For a moment we stare at each other; the living are among the dead!  Respectfully I bow and greet them a “Good morning” then leave quickly.  Conversations with ghosts only encourage them to follow you.  I have enough ghosts.
Turning around to correct my path I cross over that tricky stream.  Winter’s debris has it covered in a blanket of “hush”, but water is only silenced by Jack’s frozen finger.
Cell phone photo of my Snowberry bushes

Pass a large Cedar, and the black chain link fence that divides the Jewish dead from Christian, there are Snowberry bushes.  Hanging heavy with their poisonous fruit on the thinnest of twigs, they droop over in a random pattern like stars.  The branches so thin, if you squint your eyes just so, the wood disappears and all you see are white dots.  In a local Native tongue the name for these berries translates to “food of the dead”,  How appropriate for these then to row up against the Bayview Cemetery fence.

Being a child of the Northwest I know not to eat white berries.  The berries do not scare me.  Today, on this day, I see them as stars.  The trail is empty as I stand surrounded by a Snowberry universe.  For a moment I float.  I am an astronaut floating outside my craft.  Floating like a leaf that navigates gently down a river, unaware of its direction or the dangers of rapids.  The leaf floats where the water takes it, the water goes where all water goes, home to the ocean.  I float.
I float…
Common Snowberry (S. albus) is an important winter food source for quail, pheasant, and grouse, but is considered poisonous to humans. The berries contain the isoquinoline alkaloid chelidonine, as well as other alkaloids. Ingesting the berries causes mild symptoms of vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children. 
Interesting information here regarding NW plants:
http://www.americanprogress.org
*Under the most recent extension, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, emergency unemployment benefits will expire at the end of 2012. If Congress does not act to extend benefits, more than 2 million Americans will lose federal unemployment insurance just after Christmas with another 900,000 estimated to lose their benefits in the first three months of 2013.

Poetry: September Bellingham

Down the hill my city sits
Waves nip at its hair
Freeway scratches the belly
Mountains hold down its hip
Low mist rolled in early,
refuses to leave this cove
Down into the clouds I walk,
floating up into a subdued world
Here exhales are marked,
Talk can be seen
Sun baths buildings
in a peach-warm glow
as it fights the floating moisture
that crowns my
September Bellingham
Noon-thirty,
visibility still only four blocks.
The sun burns while seagulls
dance in the sky
Photo by Matthew Anderson/WWU
Bellingham in morning fog, September 2012


Worm vs’ Centipede!

I encourage you to take walks.  Whoever you are and wherever you live, you should take walks.  It is one of the few places in life where we are away from our home, office, TV, computer, phone.  Take nothing with you and just walk.  Before there was an iPad, or even electricity humans spent many hours just doing non-electric activities like reading, building things, knitting and playing cards. 

I’d like to suggest that our human brains need down time to process the world around us.  That one hundred years is not enough for us to adapt to electrical life, not after the millions of years we spent without it.  Seems a non-electric hour is the least we can do to keep our humanity.  Besides, if you did not take walks you may miss a ring-side seat at natures awesome spectacle; real life drama that takes place all the time, all around us.  Animals and insects living together and sometimes fighting for survival.   

I was out walking with my son towards the Whatcom Falls trails when we noticed a centipede fighting a worm on the sidewalk.  We discussed the possible strategy of the centipede and the hopeless efforts of the worm, fighting without jaws, claws or poison. 

Prior to our walk my mind was heavy in thought regarding my personal situation.  Recently divorced and unemployed my prospects do not look good.  Hope has carried me through the last four months but lately I’ve been a bit down.  I feel like I am living on the edge of a knife!  As if my next move needs to be a good one or I’ll go “down with the count” and live out of my car or something.  The fear of figuring out what to do next has frozen me.  In nature I learned that creatures when cornered will either fight, flight or freeze.  I am frozen.  Should I go back to school and give up on returning to the television industry and get equipped for another field?  Should I get an entry level job in a new field and try to work my way up?  Should I move to another city or state for an opportunity?  I’m on a pivot point trying to figure out the direction of my next step that will re-align my life’s vector. 

Staring at the worm wiggling for it’s life as the centipede chomps off a third of its body– I felt like the worm.  It moved me almost to tears to watch this silent episode unfold.  The centipede seem to be having trouble getting it’s jaws around the worm to cut a clean piece off.  It used its feet and long body to get the worm at a better angle for cutting.  Such drama!  The worm was just out crossing the sidewalk, heading towards the grassy fringe of the forest, when the centipede, hungry, full of favor cuts the worm almost in half and drags its head (or tail) back into the grass to be consumed!  I went home and wrote a poem about it, then spent the rest of the week in a daze.

Just this morning, while out on my morning walk, I decided to go back to school.  After months of researching my options, I arrived at that conclusion.  I need to be equipped, polished and tooled up for the next stage of my life.  While pondering that choice my mind drifted to the attack witnessed earlier that week.  Worm vs’ Centipede.  I don’t want to be a human worm wiggling along life’s sidewalk unprepared for a centipede attack. 
All we can do is be prepared. 

Worm vs’ Centipede
Sweet centipede, you killed your cousin the worm
Those 100 legs and plier jaws cut off the tail (or the head)
dragging the rest back into the grass jungle
from which you pounced
Worm wiggles in pain
that same useless motion used to fight for its life
Wormy blood  exits out from the severed tail (or head)
Such magnificent drama unfolds on the cement desert
that is the sidewalk  on the edge of my block!
I hurt for the worm, gasp at each bite to it’s body
I understand the centipede, natures attributes makes it the easy victor
I walk home in gray mourning
Pondering the events that nature takes for granted
Washington State Centipede

Poetry: Walking Up Holly

The Maritime Heritage Park Fountain
and the Whatcom Museum
as seen from W. Holly Street
I
Sidewalk Desert
Walking up Holly Street
Life is alive with the living
Low tide wakes the senses
as mid-day traffic races by
Walk uphill towards Bay Street
Pass three homeless ones who 
wander camel-less like wise kings
searching for The Star
Man with a stroke-limp hobbles by
passing me on the right nods a hello
He fights each step for control
Warm smile in his eyes brings water to mine
A pink knit hat lays on the park lawn
No head wants to claim it theirs
too hot for anything knitted today
Farther up four coats lay out
on the curb like an offering of gortex.
Perhaps a Samaritan placed them
there early before work

II
Tea House Oasis
I walk in the sunshine
I walk in the wind
I walk when it’s green
I stop when it’s red
Inside the cafe I sip green tea
from a cup with no handles
at a table for six,
occupied by three
Warm tea on a warm day
I am comforted by the branches
moving in the wind outside
blown by Earth’s cool breath

Fresh Air

Yesterday afternoon, desperate for some fresh air, I slipped on my shoes and traveled half a mile to Whatcom Creek.  Earlier that morning I put some olive oil in my hair for a home moisturizing treatment so I thought I’d find a good place to sit by the creek and sun my hair for a bit, let that oil heat up naturally.  Just needed fresh air and sun- that was what I thought I needed, but I needed more.

It’s been six months since I was laid off from KVOS Television here in Bellingham.  I am a driven person but lately it feels like my wheels are spinning.  I continue to apply for jobs, keeping an ear to the ground for new opportunity.  I am networking and moving going… going… going.

Walking and thinking, thinking and walking.  As I think on new strategies for success I come around to the trail head.  WOW!  The bushes along side the path here have poofed out with summer leaves and new branches.  The new bark that was laid down in April is now hidden beneath all the growth. 

Nature stops me and says, take a second and just look.  Just breath.  I do just that, for a while anyways.

Farther down the trail a jogger zipps by that sparks more internal conversation this time about my summer fitness goals.  “Just need to loose 5lbs a week doing… bla…bla…”  about that time I cross the bridge.  The creeks water is surprisingly clear I can see the stones lined up on the bottom.  Sunshine hits the creek at the perfect angle casting shadows on the moving reeds that grow beneath the water line, giving away the creeks depth.

*deep breath*
How beautiful
Middle Falls, Whatcom Creek, Bellingham

I stop to poke my head through the rails to watch the creek move.  Just in the corner of my eye I see a small spider as it swings from my glasses like Tarzan.  Picking up it’s leader line, I lay it across a metal beam for safe keeping.  Watching the diligent spider sets my mind on a tangent about how behind I am on my goal for purchasing a home.  “How the hell am I going to do that?”

thinking… thinking… thinking… 

Back to my walk.  I notice a small trail to the right, a branch into the woods off the main trail where two fallen trees have created a makeshift bridge to the other side.  I study their positions and find a person could sit nicely on one and dingle their toes in the cold water.  Before I know what I am down there doing just that.  Reliving good childhood memories I start to throw items within reach into the creek.  Sticks tossed in float on top and float away with a bumpy “whoosh” downstream.

 “There is a family on the sand bank around the bend a bit; 
I wonder if they will notice my little boats.” I say to myself  

Then slowly… quietly… like a whisper it comes to me.  The Voice.  The voice I have traveled to hear.  The still small voice that my soul yearns to be enveloped in, mailed away and read by my Beloved.  It calls and holds.  It hugs and kisses my mind and thoughts.  Inspired to write I dip the last stick from my boat pile into the water like pen to ink and try to write my name on the bark-barren dry gray log.   With each stroke the sun grabs the letter, throws it into the air; birds rise up on the currents that circulate above my head.

My epiphany:  there is no black or white in nature.  Those are man made colors.  In paint black is the combination of all colors, white is the absence.  In television black is the absence of a signal and white too much signal, over saturation. 

There is no black or white in nature.  There is light, darkness and shade.  
There is color, dimension, and movement I can hang my toes in.

My interpretation:  we put ourselves on the treadmill.  I put myself on the treadmill forgetting to breath.  Exhausting myself, trying to justify my existence, when all I need to do is be.

***

Please Excuse Me…

So, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and my gut is still feeling the hurt. The all day eating binge was uncalled for, unnecessary yet required for the full holiday experience.  If you’re not in a food coma by 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, you’ve done something wrong!  The next morning I weighed myself. 
“SP- WHY did you do that?” you may ask.  Well, I don’t know why but its done and I can’t go back.  Perhaps it was curiousity, like when kids poke at dead animals with sticks. 

After keeping my weight in check for over 10 mths I discovered that 7 lbs have snuck up on me this last weigh in. WTH? I’m not happy about that at all!  There are, of course, plenty of excuses -two being the food and candy centered holidays October’s Halloween and November’s Thanksgiving. (It’s too early to use Christmas)

Feeling all fat and a bit discouraged I went for a nice one hour walk this morning around my neighborhood. For whatever reason my mom’s comments from yesterday when we were placing the ham in the cooker rolled through my mind. “Make sure you put the ham FAT SIDE up.” The fat side. I felt like that ham, but I have more than one fat side. Lord help me.

I traveled down Cornwall to walk the track at the local high school.  Its a great track, wide, clean and five times around equals a mile. Simple. Easy. The sun was out. It was a beautiful Northwest winter day. So far no excuses could be found. However, as I approached the field I saw that the yard maintenance staff had place two bleachers and a large trampoline-thingy right on the track! Then I heard it- my inner dialog going at it:
First to speak up was “Evil SP”: “How dumb! Someone has blocked the track in TWO places, now I can’t take my walk! I’m going home!”
Then “Good SP” spoke up: “Suck it up and get ta walkin’ you lazy a**!”

I stayed and walked, slightly upset that I couldn’t just give up and go home… just slightly. Of course by the second lap I was already feeling better.  Exercise is good for me. Why was I looking for an excuse?

The web site “Fitness for Weight Loss” list the top five excuses for why we don’t exercise:

1. There’s not enough time.
2. I don’t have enough energy.
3. I’m not motivated.
4. It’s too expensive.
5. I’m sick or injured.

Alright already, I’ll walk and exercise! No excuses! Christmas is coming and THIS goose is not going to get fat… or should I say fatter. I can make time to exercise which will give me more energy and as I loose inches I’ll get motivated, make more money and be less likely to get sick or injured.
It’s in the bag!

http://www.fitnessforweightloss.com/