In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks


Friday, September 28, 2012

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
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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Song: I Love

My mom came up for a visit today.  Mom and I both share the gift of gab.  We chatted all through breakfast and during coffee, while doing a project around my home, and had a nice chat over a glass of water.  We touched on many subjects.  Somehow we started to talk about the old days of family vacations, road trips, camping out an
d the songs she and my aunt taught my cousins and I. To help quicken the time getting from point A to point B we would sing songs in the car.  Did you do this?  Do you remember the songs you use to sing?

I love little baby ducks...
Mom and I tried to remember all the songs and made a list: Oh Susanna, Clementine, Found a Peanut, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, I Know an Old Lady, You are My Sunshine, Oh You Can't Get to Heaven.  Then mom said, "You know we sang many old folk songs when you were little, but one I always liked was "I Love" by Tom T Hall."  That did not sound familiar to me.  However, music holds memory, and triggers emotional like few things can.  As soon as she started to hum a few bars of that song, I was 11 and we were at the beach sitting around a campfire.  That song transported me back many years to a wonderful time in my life!

Later I looked up the lyrics to "I Love" and just had to share it with you.  Please look up the song online and listen to it.  It's a sweet one.


I love little baby ducks,
Old pick-up trucks,
Slow movin’ trains, and rain.

I love little country streams,
Sleep without dreams,
Sunday school in May, and hay.

And I love you too.

I love leaves in the wind,
Pictures of my friends,
Birds of the world, and squirrels.

I love coffee in a cup,
Little fuzzy pups,
Bourbon in a glass, and grass.

And I love you too.

I love honest open smiles,
Kisses from a child,
Tomatoes on a vine, and onions.

I love winners when they cry,
Losers when they try,
Music when it's good, and life.

And I love you too.
Tom T Hall

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Are You?

For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It's doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered "adopted" on the blank line.

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012
In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is "What are you?"   ...'scuse me? Yes, it's true.  Sometimes I'll respond, "I'm human.  What are you?"  However, when I'm in a good mood, I answer with the only one I have:  "Me? Oh I'm Irish and German.", then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  "You mean Black Irish?"

Honestly, I love my family and adopted the heritage of my parents.  My mother's parents both are of German decent, from the Northern Rhine region, came over before WWI.  Mom was born and raised on a mid-west farm.  My father is Irish-Canadian, his Grandfather moved down to Minnesota a hundred years ago to farm.  My dad's mother was a Dunbar.  Dad was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Perhaps you associate blond hair, blue eyes with someone with a Northern European genealogy.  In fact I have black hair and brown eyes, and tend to stick out like a sore thumb in family photos.  No big whoop.  Inside I felt, talked, played and thought like the family I was raised in.  My attitude has always been, if someone has a problem with you, it is their problem not yours.

What are you?  Folks are often confused by my features and can't figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don't know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Once I offered a friend some hummus.  They went on a rampage about how they hated hummus and that it was a "stupid hippie dip."  I informed him that he was insulting my people.  This friend knew I was adopted and joked back, "You don't know who your people are."  I responded proudly, "Then I am ALL people."  We were joking around, but honestly aren't we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody... or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something queer happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The "Father of Europe" 
Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That's a lot of people. In fact, that's more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.

What's wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.

So see I wasn't too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.  
(...oh and don't insult my people!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Poetry: River Ink

River Ink

Went to the river looking for a poem
I found my familiar trail
Winding woods that hug the bank
Whatcom Creek in August
Bushes high and
Full of berries,
Birds and spiders webs.

Grass sways underwater
Moving in sync with the river
Is this what peace looks like,
Melted into movement?

Tree branch dips over the drink
Desiring more of plenty
Is water from the root not good enough?
Do you cool your leaves in the noon sun?

Down by the edge there’s a place to sit
Two dead trees have slumped across
I dip a stick into the stream
Like pen into ink
To write my name on the sun bleached wood.

The sun grabs my letters
Throws them in the air
Birds ride the upward current
Did I just disappear?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Poetry: Ghost in the Hall

When I was a child
A Skeleton Ghost would walk
The bedroom hall of our home

Afraid of the dark I would sleep with the light on
My door open just enough to keep out the trouble
That lurks in the imagination of a ten year old,
Usually, hiding under the bed or in closets

Ghosts are everywhere when you are ten.

Often the ghost would wiggle its way past my door
Steps heard creaking across loose boards
Creak.  Creak.  Creak.
Down the hall slowly it walked

Skeleton heading for the kitchen
To fill up its ribs with mom’s pork chops
Then fiddle its way back to bed
After the meal was consumed

One scary night before this mystery was solved
I slept between my parents for protection

Bookends of adult and authority on either side
Defense from anything ghoulish
Each parent rolled over facing the walls
As I lay blinking at the ceiling.

2 a.m. is Skeleton’s supper time

Down it came toward my parents’ room
Closer.  Closer.  Closer.

Bones walk lightly when there is no moon

From the ceiling my eyes followed
To see what stood at the foot of the bed

Its frame wiggled trying to materialize
To grab hold of me with solid hands
I knew it was real
The ghost that walked my hall at night!

Dad sighed in his sleep
And the ghost misted away. 
Scared off by the possibility of his waking
I waited.  Waited.  Waited.

It did not come back.

Then I returned to my own bed
Safer now with mystery solved
Wrapped in the comfort of knowing
Skeleton was real and it knew I could see it!

...true story

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No Marrow in CLOVER

Great news!  Mary, from the Independent Writers Studio office in Bellingham, confirmed this morning that my poem "No Marrow" was accepted for the December edition of  Clover.  Been a tough month for submissions; this news came at the perfect time.   It is rather humbling to be amongst the poets and writers of the IWS.*  Thank you, thank you~

I watch you
Hoping around the twigs
Hanging upside down
From the tiniest sliver of wood

Light and carefree
Yet obviously well fed
Beautiful colors
Lovely song

Be more like the birds,
they don’t worry, I think
How can I when my bones
Are not filled with air
But of heavy marrow?

Heavy with duty and plans
Weighed down with projects
Slighted by calendar dates
And numbers that don’t add up

My human flight drags by
Day to day, no bouncing here
But a determined searching
Looking for morsels to feed the spirit

Think like a bird-
I could be one-
Is it the state of mind that matters?
Or the transformation?

And when do the two become one?
Mind and matter
Flight and fancy
Living and alive

We are cousins little bird
As you hop around the maple
Barren of summer leaves
I watch and learn

My untamed past stirs in the blood
Reminding me of the origins
Forcing breath of life into
The marrow that weighs me down

**To learn more about Clover or The Independent Writers Studio please visit their website at:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Poetry: South Beach

South Beach Eagle King
Often, we would walk South Beach together
That long large-pebbled beach
along the Salish Sea
on the island's west side

Short salt water waves
lap up against the shore there,
constant rhythm set by the wind,
like a slow rock tumbler
sifting for agates

Brown cliffs of San Juan 
barely hold a road on top itself
Large crumbles of dirt clots
lay at its feet predicting its fate

Hard soles are needed to walk this beach
The stones just large enough to 
aggravate the arches as you walk,
Hamstrings pull heavy with each step

Once in a while,
whenever it wants to,
a large eagle can be found 
perched on beach wood
He owns that beach and all who pass
His royal brow gives no doubt

"This is my favorite Beach", you tell me one foggy morning

We tried again to walk together
I walked 'till I reached the Eagle King, 
you continued alone into the mist
Mystery always favored over familiar
I sit and watch you heavy step away

Alone you go into the fog
leaving me to sit with the eagle
You continue until a low cloud
consumes you from my sight

I imagine you reach the end
where the cliffs give way to the shore
and the landscape bends around
to the fields at Cattlepoint

I saw you in my mind
alone and happy with your thoughts 
and the sea

I sit and watch
You walk and ponder

A year later
You sat and watched 
as I walked off the island

You let me go that year
just like I let you walk the beach alone...

My Beach Shoes 2010

Free Yoga

This morning I tried to do yoga with a television class, "Morning Yoga", broadcasting from the local CBS channel.  The program was only 30 minutes long.  Due to a restricted budget I gave up my yoga class membership for a month.

The benefits of Flow Yoga cultivates cardiovascular health, and musculoskeletal strength and flexibility.  It tunes and tones each organ system-respiratory, digestive, reproductive, endocrine, lymphatic and nervous.  Practicing yoga reduces the negative effects of stress and "dis"-ease and cultivates the body's capacity to relax.*  If I put my mind to it I could remember the routine the instructor Lo uses at the YMCA downtown.  It's a perfect version of Flow Yoga, and the moves are moderate.  However, I enjoy following an instructor, so I grabbed my mat and headed for the living room.
I miss you yoga class!

I laid out my yoga mat in front of the television, for some FREE yoga, and waited.  The first two minutes were breathing exercises.  Then the instructor said, "Good job.  We'll be right back after these messages."  What?  YOGA WITH COMMERCIALS?  I sat cross-legged in front of the screen waiting...  and waiting...  Sitting through car commercials, Labor Day Sale spots, and those "Do you owe back taxes to the IRS?" commercials.  By the time the show returned I was pissed!

It didn't take me too long to realize that yoga with commercials is not a good idea.  As soon as I was relaxed and ready to begin, mass commercialism bombarded me with a KFC in my face!  My psyche and chi were getting whipped into a frenzy.  KFC vs' Yoga?!  In my mind, the two cancel each other out.  The best solution to this problem was NOT to do anything, and I did.

Feeling content with my decision to do nothing,
I started to fuss around the house.
Laundry is piling up, so I started a load.
The leaves from the petunias I pulled yesterday needed to be picked up, so I swept.
A professional relationship is also on my mind.
Lighting a candle, then I took a quick walk for coffee to think.
Needed to jump on my new writing project, so I started an outline.
--Calm and a light workout came to me by doing simple household tasks.

My prayer candle Virgen de Guadalupe flickers behind my computer screen as I type.
Two Taoist proverbs also come to mind:

The way you can go isn't the real way.
The name you can say isn't the real name,
So the unwanting soul sees what is hidden,
And the ever wanting soul sees only what it wants.

If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.

Being a writer, I ponder my existence and think on life.  You know, just sit and think.  This exercise is especially valuable when you have much empty time to fill.
The deep thoughts started in:
Does anyone listen and if so does it matter?  
Isn't it enough just to think and be?  
Richness  and truth enter with every breath.  My wanting and fussing stopped, for a while.

Today I am above ground and breathing... and...  and I miss my yoga class.