Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Winter Eve

First real snow out there, but only an inch. A day that never lit up, and now it's dusk at 4 p.m. Windows all steamed up from lentil soup on the stove, a second dusk.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day before Thanksgiving

Gray morning, light snow on the ground. Cold, the fallen leaves starched white. 
Darkness in the house and open maw of suitcases. The Unpacked lurk in heavy shadows. 
Sitting on the couch: cold knees, cold feet. Cats burrowed in blankets. At last, a slight hiss from the radiators. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Before Dawn

Can't sleep all week, something bothers me. Today is the first of October. I turn the calendar page and smooth it with my hand.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Last-day-of-September yellow trees flame up along the curb's edge and on the aged flanks of mountains. Summer incessance ceases and the unripe stays that way. The waves of griefs and roses settle into stasis I can at last keep up with.

Monday, May 12, 2008


From our red library room, I'm looking out on pink apple, copper beech, black firs, and emerald maples, all the more vivid against this gray morning sky. I am startled into remembering that I do indeed live in the mountains, and that this is indeed mountain weather. Jazz Minnie is purring in my ear. Several birds just flew by too fast to see what they were.
       I'm back from New York, after several days of working on the family house. One night A. went into Manhattan to meet a friend and I took J. to a new Japanese restaurant nearby.  All through the sushi and maki I waxed poetic and ecstatic about Astoria, as delicious and complex as the green tea ice cream that ended our meal. After dinner, I led J. on a pilgrimage to Astoria Park, a twenty minute stroll down Ditmars, the main shopping street, which becomes more residential as you get closer to the park, and is dotted with cafes of various ethnic origins. We passed an Arab coffee joint with an American-sounding name in which Chinese people were smoking hookahs at French cafe tables. (What do they smoke in them? Tobacco, I guess.)
     When we reached the park it was just getting dark. The wind picked up, but not too much. We walked up the hill to the park's great sloping meadow and a view of the East River, that wet opal reflecting the lights of Manhattan and the sky. The Triboro Bridge arched above us and cast its roar down on the paths and grasses—a roar that seems to me like the background noise of the Big Bang. It's elemental, the strange mix of wind and running engines.  The bridges, the park, the lights, the sound set my own atoms vibrating in sympathy. The river's intractable, opposing currents roiled under their namesake Hellgate Bridge. Gold, blue-black swirls butted up against each other, as they always do,  helpless and determined. The Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island Sound collide right there! We ambled toward the river under the canopy of old sycamores and the Hellgate's cathedral arches. I greeted ghosts and old memories, and beheld the explosion of Now: the iron rail at the river, the black rocks strewn below, the rat that roamed among them.
     This morning back in Pittsfield I contemplate the trees swaying against the stormy sky as I replay that  night in the city. All of it swirls in me like the Hellgate currents. 
     That night in New York I  felt such possibility, such optimism. The house, Astoria itself, an incredible asset any way you cut it, not a millstone around my neck. I felt empowered—toward whatever. I felt as though I could Take a Chance. Sink in, let go.
     What to do? I'm steeping like a teabag in the cup of this experience.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


A week of blazing sun and summer temperatures, and the world's a salad, fresh and tender. 

Monday, April 21, 2008


At last!  I spied the first maples netted in their glorious verdant veil. Lanky brides. Crotchety brides. And the apples, too, offering the small, rounded leaves that will soon cup their blossoms. The old crab looks full; no further die-off for a couple years.  Every Spring I am so cheered by that tree. That it continues, yes, but for other reasons, too. Close to the ground, its original graft is still visible. It is so abrupt, the change from one kind of tree to another. It is totally Apple,  yet it grows on the roots of another species about which we know nothing. Perfect, yet it has that wound. Part the deep grass at its base.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


The lawns are  greening even on the non-sunny side of the street. The elms show small red blooms; the maples, box elders, beech, and apples hold back but offer hints. In a few days, a week at most, the sidewalk maples will burst forth their "spring green" blossoms, tiny bouquets each one. Already, the tree shadows have blurred.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harsh and Exciting

Persistent worry, unease. What can I do about it? Minnie and Tufte cocked their heads toward the window, but did not get up as I did when a flock of geese passed over honking louder than the morning traffic and flying faster than the clouds. Mary Oliver reminds, in her poem Wild Geese, "You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves."


The crocuses have flopped over—we had one very warm day. But the daffodils have stepped forth, the trumpet section of the Spring orchestra now tooting its yellow melody. As much as Spring is the season of hope and renewal, it is also the season of grief. Elinor Wylie in 1927: "That Spring, briefer than an apple blossom's breath," and Li Ch'ing-Chao in the eleventh century: "I am afraid I cannot keep / The pear blossoms from withering."  

Thursday, April 10, 2008

After Night Rain

At dawn light the flat expanse of the studio roof shimmered silver blue: a mountain lake, a butterfly wing. 

Monday, April 7, 2008


The new view opened by the recently fallen tree has led me to try and find out the name of the peak now visible and serendipitously framed by two sentinel firs in the near distance. The Chinese poet in me venerates South Mountain, which stands a little to the southwest of my house and poses so enticingly at the end of my street.  Every time I drive under it, I look up its flanks unabashedly. 

From the topo maps it appears that this other large and symmetrical (from this angle) hill could actually be October Mountain—a surprise, as one has to drive almost a half hour south to get to October Mountain Road. Sykes Mountain is closer, but lower and a little more easterly. 

Native Land

Last night, a dream of a country lane. It's overgrown, a couple of mossy buildings half visible down the way. I catch a glimpse of sky light at the horizon, maybe evening sky. Anything at all could be hiding in the shrubbery, and the path itself so intriguing.


Splendid morning sun today. Warm temperatures promised all week. The crocuses will get their moment. They have been upright and closed tight for several days now—a hundred unlit birthday candles.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Yesterday, a celebration after a difficult week. Joy in art and friends. Remembrance, affirmation. Seed matured to fruit. Prodigiousness. 

Today, a drizzly quiet day for mourning.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Gone the Next

Our old cat, Smokey, died yesterday morning. His heart gave out, though in his simple animal way, he never lost heart.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Snow came down again on the crocuses. 
Yet no madness in the flowers.

My own heart, closed and pinched, a disturbed bud. 

Thursday, April 3, 2008

At the Cemetery

It troubles me that I can mistake the sound of wind in pines for traffic noise.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Northwest Wind

All night long it blew garbage can lids and gritty dust through my dreams. Fears piled up like leaves in the dooryard. But sunup brought forth vivid, open skies. We lost the broken branch that had been looming over the driveway for half a year. Our neighbor lost a big box elder, the one that had been struggling last summer. Everything fell into clear space, no damages. Later that day I traveled north to a funeral. When I returned, the wood was cut and stacked next to the neighbor's campfire. At night from the kitchen window I watched the flamelight glance across the yards. When I went out to feed the cats, I saw smoke like ghosts among the trees and buildings. It tasted like early spring.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Beautiful birdsong, faint through the closed windows.

Monday, March 31, 2008


With four cats and two apes in our smallish house, there are never enough places for us all to sit. Tufte just left the best spot on the best chair and I took it. Now he's back and sitting across my lap and both wrists as I try to type this entry on my laptop. 

Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain

Large clumps fall, sticking only on the grassy surfaces. When I pulled in this morning after my meeting, Tufte came rushing out of the barn to the back steps, his gray fur tufted with snowflakes. He ran up to the door, pushed his nose into it, and stood there waiting. As this transpired, Minnie appeared on the porch steps around the other side of the house and mewed at us with great vigor. I let Tufte in with me, then walked through the house to the porch door to rescue Minnie. He wasn't there; he had gone over to the steps that Tufte and I had used, and now had to travel back again through the wetness. He came running when I called, scolding me all the way, his indignation dripping from his fur. But the howls turned to loud purr as soon as he crossed the magic threshold. I removed some burdock from his only slightly wet back and gave both cats treats. Then they napped.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


It warmed up enough this afternoon so that the earth softened. Deep footprints everywhere and tracks throughout the house. There is no solid ground except the pavement, which, one would have to conclude, floats. The garden is a viscous ocean. The separation of the earth from the seas—never happened. 


19° this morning at the end of March. The crocuses, just beginning to poke through the leaves and show their colored buds, have stalled. In Boston this week the front yards were spread with purple and yellow, big cups fully open. In New York three weeks ago, even the daffodils were fat-budded. Winter lingers in these parts, but the light is Spring-like. When we pass the Equinox, the cup of day spills over.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


It is still flowing fast and high, but has come down a lot since last week's torrential rains. North of Dawes, the tips of the biggest rocks breach the surface and the water churns white as it speeds through the narrow channels between. Sun glints off the surface in the distance. Beneath me, it penetrates into greenish depths of rocks and mud. Cars pass behind me at intervals short enough to suppress the rush of river sound, but the only garbage visible is a red bicycle frame on the east bank next to the bridge support. I inspect the break between the bridge rail and the adjacent fence. It's large enough for a person to slip through—I consider going down, but the bank is just too steep. 


13 very fat ones sunning on the riverbank.