Cicada Songs

I find an empty cicada shell beneath a leaf on an oak tree I planted this spring.

That line sums up midsummer, this lush and gorgeous summer. I planted that tree from my bare root order, a mere stick with a frizz of roots. Maybe, my kids said. And yet these trees thrive.

sinking into the rocks,
cicadas’ cry

— Basho


Molly and Fluffy


On my walk to the co-op, I stop at a bed of peonies and cup a giant blossom in my hands: perfect white stained with drops of red, like a strange variation of the drops of blood on the snow in the Grimms’ tale. Enchantingly beautiful. And that, perhaps, is metaphor enough for one Saturday morning.

When the peonies bloomed,
It seemed as though were
No flowers around them.

– Kiitsu


Little Bits of Beauty

Taking out the trash from the library today, I stopped by the crabapple tree planted at the back school entrance no one uses anymore. My goodness! An utter profusion of beauty by the stinking compost!

On this warm day, in sleepy, quiet Woodbury, the first and second graders walked over for their final visit to the library this school year. I read only one book to them — Jim LaMarche’s The Raft — and remembered the summer I was 10, and my family camped for weeks in the west. I brought the book I discovered with great glee in my father’s very grownup shelves of Hume and Kant and Heidegger. What else but Huckleberry Finn, still one of my most favorite novels.

The children listened quietly this afternoon, checked out their books, and I walked back to the school with a girl who wouldn’t return next year, her arm around my waist.

It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened…


2,000 Miles, a Handful of Hours

What a strange, odd thing to travel 2,000 miles over the earth’s curve, all in the piece of one day. We began in that incredibly quiet hour between 1 and 2 a..m., standing in my parents’ kitchen, drinking coffee with the tenor of silliness that early hour deserves.

For a just a moment we stood outside in the New Mexico rural dark, under the unsurpassable beauty of the constellations and the Milky Way’s arch, and then our contemporary travels began by Subaru, by shuttle, by sandals running through an airport, by plane and by Toyota, and finally home to bare feet in the garden, where I ate tart radishes.

Modern miracles, all of this locomotion. But at the journey’s end was the greater wonder: our rows of lilacs — lavender and deep violet, pearly double-blossoms — all in bloom, ineffably scented — breathe in, breathe in — humming with pollinators, quietly going about their business.

You are brighter than apples,
Sweeter than tulips,
You are the great flood of our souls
Bursting above the leaf-shapes of our hearts,
You are the smell of all Summers…
From Amy Lowell’s Lilacs


February Yields To March

The snow lies so deeply around our house I might be wrong about that slender path, first through the transplanted hydrangeas from Susan and then along the milkweed behind the garden. Down the hill, through the wild tangle of pine and boxelder, I see a single porch light every night. Come spring, I imagine, I’ll walk in my boots through the melting snow, stand at the edge of the forest, and see whose light that is.

The light stays longer in the sky, but it’s a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter….

(The earth) says begin again, you begin again.

— Louise Gluck, from “March”


The cats — models of serenity.

Mid-October Garden

In the garden, fat Brussels sprouts nestle against the stalks. My daughter says two words when she sees them: With bacon.

While the light funnels away — every single day, a little less — the remaining flowers in my garden brighten: marigolds, pink and violet hydrangeas, gold calendula, ragged now and past their prime.

None is travelling
Here along this way but I,
This autumn evening.

— Basho