Friday, January 31, 2014

Beautiful Africa!

Kids, last night it was my privilege to see the Watoto Children's Choir perform in my little town, on their cross-Canada tour. They are touring to raise money to fund the orphanages back home in Uganda, full of children orphaned by AIDS. Fourteen million AIDS orphans struggle to survive in Africa. 

Kids, as I watched, I was overjoyed and heartbroken at the same time. The children are so vibrantly alive, so joyous, singing and dancing and leaping all over the stage with such energy. And each one of them has a story, some of which they told – all have been orphaned by AIDS, all have known hunger and having no one to love them. This mission took them in, creating an entire village for – and of – them. 

I didn’t cry during their stories of what had happened to them. But I fought the tears and my heart ached as they were singing and dancing. I was choked up by their resilience, their radiance, their joy in life, after so much sorrow and loss. Because that is what life is – joy and pain – loss and abundance - abandonment and rescue. 

[If you want to learn more about the Watoto community model, here is the link to their vision: family homes, not institutional living, schools, vocational training, gardens.........the vision of its creators, Gary and Marilyn Skinner.]

Just in the little corner where I sat, in the audience, I saw other stories, if not so desperate. In front of me was a mother in her fifties and her adult autistic son, who rocked gently during the program. I watched their loving interactions and recognized: hers is a hard path, but she has a purpose greater than herself, in caring for her son. She accepts her path, and makes it a loving one. Beside me was my little sojourner Sebastian, age four, who in his short life has been taken from his family of origin, who talks about "my social worker", and who, in his foster home, lost his "Papa", whom he adored, in 2013. And his foster mom, my friend, who lost her beloved husband, who died three weeks after being suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer.  And me, also with stories of loss and resilience.

I watched these children, radiant and shining, whose stories broke my heart, then healed it again, and came home with a very full and grateful heart, to be part of this marvelous tapestry of life, this community of souls - and filled to the brim with the beauty of Africa, beloved country - filled with the beauty of life.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


When we walk through speckled landscapes where the shape-shifters dance,
we are walking in the footsteps of the ones who came before.
There are signposts they have left us all across the forest floor.
A thousand years of living - we dont set our sail by chance.

We are walking in the footsteps of the ones who came before.
The Old Ones' songs I hear upon the breeze.
A thousand years of living - we dont set our sail by chance.
I sing wolfsong to the mountains and knock on midnight's door.

The Old Ones' songs I hear upon the breeze,
under my feet the brittle leaves of summer past.
I sing wolfsong to the mountains and knock on midnight's door.
The night air whispers: here you are, at last! 

Under my feet the brittle leaves of summer past.
There are signposts they have left us all across the forest floor.
The night air whispers: here you are, here you are at last!
Walking through a speckled landscape where the shape-shifters dance.

A pantoum, but the lines are too long for the margins, so they dont fall the way they should.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hunger : Lizzy Chemal

Lizzy Chemal prepares chapatis 
for her mom and her siblings.
She has a smile on her face,
for she loves her family,
and enjoys preparing the meal
to satisfy their hunger.

There is another hunger young Lizzy knows,
hunger for knowledge.
In the heart of her village,
after walking far to bring home water,
after working in the corn field,
and tending the goats,
and after the washing-up,
outside, in the dented enamel basin,
Lizzy has time to dream.

There is a life beyond this village.
She knows, because her big brother has told her,
things she cannot imagine,
places she cannot picture,
except in dreams.

Her dream has long been 
to go to secondary school.
This is a big dream for a village girl.
But - perhaps - it is possible?
Her big brother found a sponsor,
left the village,
went to school, studied hard,
and now he has come back,
with a good job, and plans to help
his family, and
the people of his village.

Looking around Kacheliba, Lizzy
and her brother know that life can be hard
for a girl who cannot get out of the village.
Daughters watch their mothers' hard lives,
help with the chores, gather water and firewood.
Lizzy knows all too well the fork in the road:
going away to school or accepting 
that this will continue to be her life,
that soon, within a few years, 
babies will begin to come.

Sometimes, in this life,  a miracle happens.
Someone across the ocean 
tells a friend about 
this brilliant girl who stands 
at the very turning in the path
between Possibility and Impossibility,
and the friend, who has a beautiful heart,
determines this girl will do the impossible.
She will go to school.

So, Dream, now, Lizzy! 
With your wide open eyes,
watch as your brother gathers the school supplies,
your mother prepares your clothing.
Watch as package after package 
- pencils, ruler, paper, books -
come in the front door, all for you.
There is such a rush to be ready, 
the plans for travel,
more excitement than Christmas,
mother proud and happy,
little Cheptoo, big-eyed and wondering,
because Lizzy is going to school!

Adorable Cheptoo, I know you will miss your big sister. But study hard in school for, when it is your turn, we will make a miracle happen for you, too!

With Love from your Koko

posted for Mid-Week Motif's challenge: Hunger

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Walk in the Fog

Somass River, in fog,
where it enters the Alberni inlet.
Being a valley ringed by mountains,
we get a great deal of fog in fall and winter.

This is where the highway heads towards Tofino. 
The sign lists the number of miles - 119 -
to the place of my dreams and it was so hard 
not to head my little beater -
whose bumper sticker proudly proclaims 
'I Love Tofino" - 
up and over the mountain pass.

Where Stamp and Sproat (pronounced "sprout")  Rivers 
join to form the Somass 

My little sidekick in his new shades,
practicing some of his fancy "moves"

Sproat Lake campground and park in fog it begins to lift....

A small sojourner, in reverie
at the water's edge

A patch of blue, on its way.....

One last look......

then back to the river, and home.

When I took the final shot of the river, I was behind a huge fat-trunked old growth tree. As I emerged, Sebastian said to me, "I couldn't see you...........but I could see your hair!" and cracked me right up. Is he saying Wild Woman has Big Hair??

It did feel good to be out in nature today. Even without my big black dog.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Wedding Dress in the Lake

They found a wedding dress in the lake.
Sodden and sad, they pulled it out.
Where was the bride, this dress she wore?
They dredged the lake, they combed the shore.

A white horse watched from the piney woods,
a tear running down its rider's cheek -
the one the bride had loved so well,
a lad pink-cheeked and young and meek..

Once was a young girl, soft and fair,
betrothed to one for whom she did not care.
At the steps of the altar, she turned and ran,
and that's where this tale both ended - and began.

posted for Brian's way cool prompt at dVerse - to tell him a story.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


google image

[This was written some years ago, when I still had a certain glint in my eye. (I'm better now, thanks!) I decided to post it this morning, for a bit of a giggle. Actually, it turned out not too far from the truth - I am living, not in my sister's basement, but in a small suite in the back of her house, and we collect dogs instead of cats. Hee hee.]

My sister keeps trying to marry me off.
I think she's afraid in my old age
I'll end up living in her basement,
collecting cats
and spitting on her floor.
And she's probably right -
because who else will have me?
She gets frustrated
with my non-cooperation
on this matter.
She says I'm proving
that you're never too old
to be a Major Geek.

She says lying on the couch
with a magazine over my face
isnt sending out
the proper signals.
She may be right.
I've noticed no one's knocked
on my front door
for a decade or so.
And the last one who did I mistook
for a deliveryman
and shut the door
in his bewildered face.
I think maybe I've forgotten
what the signals ARE!

She tears her hair out
when I tell her about
the last two men
I found attractive,
responding in my usual fashion
by bolting out the door,
running home to the safety
of my solitude
in all its known dimensions.

But I say I'm making progress.

Now when I run away
it's not because I'm afraid
of the man any more,
but because I'm much more afraid
of myself.

She says I'm hopeless
and she's giving up.

But me? I never give up!
Someday another Major Geek 
and I will meet,
and collide as we're both
bolting out the door.
The sparks will fly
as our feet pedal
furiously together
on the doorjamb.
Our elbows will knock,
we'll peer near sightedly
at each other,
and we'll dimly recognize
a Moment to be Siezed,
then there we'll be:
another perfect match
made in Geek Heaven! :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Face In the Mirror

Florence "Floss" Fitzsimmons,
one of the farm girls in her area
to ride for pleasure
and Monte

For years, I have been watching
my grandmother's face
emerging before me
in my mirror.
My grandmother's eyes
are looking out of my face.
They know me.

I remember walking beside her,
as a child, in the cemetery, 
when her thoughts were on dying,
when she said how peaceful
it was there,
and how angry I was,
that she could even think
of leaving me.

She did, years later,
and I assisted that passage,
one solitary tear 
rolling down her cheek,
when I thanked her
for all the love.

She visited me,
on my way home
from the funeral,
Galway Bay tinkling in
one side of my head and out the other,
as I quickly thought: 
"Bye, Grandma, I love you",
as the notes tinkled out and away.

Then came the years 
when an elfin granddaughter
walked beside me, looking up
and I was the grandmother
in my turn,
and that vast peaceful knowing
that lived in my grandmother's heart
came to reside within me.

I think about 
the love and connection
in that long line
of strong women
who walked here before me,
and the line of strong women 
who will walk here behind me,
for the circle of love
that is endless,
for the cycle of life
that keeps turning and turning,
one grandmother out,
one granddaughter in,
footsteps following footsteps,
heart upon heart,
all the way Home. 

Kids, this is adapted from a poem I wrote earlier, called The Grandmother Song. I took it in a new direction and re-wrote it for Susan's prompt at Mid-Week Motif: Mirrors. It was either this or a rant by Wild Woman about caricatures (which I actually might have rather enjoyed. I may still do it! Cackle.)


It is all there,
jowls and Terrible Hair
and bald eyelids:
Wild Woman as Caricature
of her younger self.

It is a travesty of justice
one can do nothing about.
The Court of Last Appeal
is one she is not ready to visit
just yet.

Wild Woman favors soft lighting
and cheval glass.
With an image
all beveled and warped,
she gains a much softer,
gentler perspective
on what exactly age does
to the aging.
She pretends
it is the Fun Mirror
at the circus,
and laughs just the way
that she did then,
at the reflected image.

She is okay with it,
because she is
still breathing.
And cackling.
And, blessedly,
she doesnt really care,
any more,
so she doesnt need
to look in mirrors
very often .
Only to make sure
her eyes
still line up.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


google image

Wikipedia says "Clouds are a visible mass 
of water droplets  suspended in the atmosphere 
above the surface  of a planetary body."

Transporter of my dreams, 
you sail, white horses,
night-riding against an indigo sky,
shimmery veil effacing Sister Moon.

Like swans, you serenely swim
my summer sky,
or pile up thunderheads
before the lightning cracks,
the thunder rolls,
then you let loose 
that first sibilant hiss of rain,
accompanied by the metallic smell
rain only has at that moment,
taking me back to childhood
and my grandma's porch,
where we enjoyed 
the afternoon thunder's 
rolling roar.

You decorate my sky with beauty,
differently each day,
drawing my eyes
always upwards,
so as not to miss
the display.

When the moon is full,
I stand, small, 
admiring your curves,  
all shot with silver,
sky made mysterious
and beautiful,
moving, and alive,
with your presence.


My friends, 
sometimes we look out
of a small window,
and we think the gray clouds 
seem to cover
the whole sky.

Let's remember
to always choose
the biggest window
to see through-
the clouds are there,
but now we can see 
how many patches of blue
are up there, too.

for the Poetry Jam prompt: Clouds

Monday, January 20, 2014

A call to arms - warning: some images upsetting to animal lovers


I have just become aware of the documentary THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE, based on the work, (and the book We Animals,) of Jo-Anne McArthur, exposing our global treatment of animals as commodities rather than living beings.

I am hustling to get book and film into my hands. I know what they contain will break my heart. But if the animals can live it, I can bear witness and do the little I can to help spread awareness that this world's systems need massive injections of compassion, ASAP. 

Work like Jo-Anne's, and that of filmmaker Liz Marshall, is a 9-1-1 call for us to wake up to the things we turn away from, don't want to see, and  to demand, through the sheer number and power of our united voices, that mistreatment of animals, now sanctioned by government, be criminalized.

I don't think that is an unreasonable goal. What is unreasonable - inhumane and horrifying - is that these gentle creatures endure such living hells by the millions all across the globe, year upon year.

In the film clip, the activist says "I believe people are compassionate", and I believe so, too. The fact that such practices exist is because it is allowed and some people have lost their connection to the web of life, in their pursuit of earning a living. Legislation of humane conditions would benefit not just the animals, but the people who work with them, as well. Their souls would rest more easily.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ice Fishing in Canada, eh?

My newest granddog, Smokey, ice fishing

with his mom, Zenny

and pop, Jon, ice fishing at Pasquale Lake.

Jon has been an intrepid fisherman and camper since his boyhood.
Now  he lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, where the wind chill hovers 
at minus 50, through very long winters. But he is still out there fishing 
- ice fishing -
which, loosely translated, is one hole and one pole, 
good boots, a lot of long underwear and patience.

Smokey loves fish on his crunchies,
so Zenny told Jon,
"Catch all the fish you can!"

This looks very cold and frozen.
The structures are ice fishing tents.
Jon just got himself one,
which seems a pretty good idea.
Hot coffee would be the next!

Puppy is getting tired
after this expedition.

He was likely pretty happy
to get home where it is warm and eat some 
of that tasty fish.

He is so adorable.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

We Are Trees

Ringing Cedar

The earth is a living being
peopled by trees.
Put your hand on the trunk 
of wise Grandfather Cedar
and listen, as he teaches you
how to live
with the natural world,
how to learn from it,
speak to it,
co-exist with it,
with respect, 
doing no harm.

Listen to
the song
of this old tree,
of cosmic energy,
source of our 
very breath. 

Always remember:
We are water.
We are air.
We are trees.

The Ringing Cedars of Russia,
deep in the taiga,
when they reach 
a venerable age,
begin to ring.
They are asking humans to use
their stored-up energy
for the benefit of mankind.
If their call is not answered,
they begin to burn from the inside,
much as we do,
when our gifts
are not received.

Place your hand on the trunk
of Grandfather Cedar.
Ask for his blessing,
his forgiveness 
for our being so slow
to awaken.

Listen to his song,
and remember:
We are water.
We are air.
We are trees.

Posted for Bjorn's prompt at dVerse: Under the Canopy -  to write about trees. The story of the Ringing Cedars of Russia, and the eco-villages spread across Russia (and even parts of the USA), inspired by the series of books by Vladimir Megre, has always fascinated me.

Friday, January 17, 2014

For Love of the Sea

Kids, this oceanographer, who has studied and actually lived in  the ocean throughout her life, conveys her message so simply and convincingly, I can't imagine anyone not being moved by it. Here are two important minutes for your contemplation.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Gibbous Moon

If I were to open
a blue door
into the murmurous silence,
would you rend your garments
and hang upside down
from the yew tree
under a spiritous moon?

Tongues grow wild
and shadows dance upon the walls
in the glow of the candles,
and only blackness
when one contemplates
a gibbous moon.

Brendan, over at Real Toads, set us the task of using the words outlined in bold to write a poem of Moon Madness, as Plath-like as possible. These lines just tumbled out all on their own so I set them here undisturbed, as I have no idea what they mean or where they came from. Just grateful that they came.

Re-posted for Poets United's Poetry Pantry

What Prays At Night?

for  Laurie's prompt at Poetry Jam: to write about a refrigerator, in 50 words or less. (Mine is 51.)When my four kids were young, I was a single mom, quite impoverished, and keeping up with their hungry appetites was an on-going challenge. 

One night, we were playing 
a family game,
with written clues 
throughout the house.

One clue
was tucked into
my prayer plant,
whose leaves folded 
up and inward
every night.
It read:
"What closes up at night
and prays?"

Jon, age eleven,
"the refrigerator!"
and we all
cracked up.

I should explain that the fridge, always empty, was praying for groceries!!!!!!!


Malala -

How is it that each child is born, perfect and whole, yet some grow up to see only differences, to oppress others,  to become extremists, terrorists, suicide bombers, in the name of their beliefs?

"I raise up my voice....
so those without a voice 
can be heard."

How is it that, while each child is of equal worth at their time of birth simply by being born, some are born into excess, and some into want so severe they must seek their livelihoods on garbage dumps, and drink from fetid streams? Yet each new birth is as valuable as every other, to life and to nature. Each soul is smiled on as tenderly by Heaven, each heart dreams the same dream of life, each soul wishes only to live out its destiny. 

"Let us pick up 
our most powerful weapons-
our books and pens."

How can one gender make a case for oppressing the other? or one governing force believe it is justified in murdering its own people who hold differing beliefs? How is a man with a gun able to shoot in the face one small schoolgirl who wants only an education, and then go home and kiss his own small daughter?

"One child, one teacher,
one book and one pen
can change the world."

Yet how mighty the voice of that one small brave girl, speaking out against an oppressive regime, who refuses to be silenced, even by terrorists with bullets, and who thus gains the ears of the world.


Kids, I am struggling these days and my writing is as well. Bear with me. This is an attempt at a half-assed haibun. These are my thoughts in response to Susan's Mid Week Motif at Poets United: Equality. Right now I am reading Malala's book-the brave girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for insisting on girls' rights to education, and who refused to be silenced. The quotes are from her speech to the United Nations last summer, on the day designated as World Malala Day.

A Good Girl

Our life, at Dogs R Us, is all about the critters. 
This is Noella, in her younger years, 
when I so often walked her and Pup at Stamp Falls. 
Pup didnt get along with other dogs very well. 
But he and Noey enjoyed their walks together, in the years 
when neither he nor she had other siblings.

She was named Noella because she was a Christmas puppy.
My sister Lori adopted her when she lived up north.
They were both happy to come home to the Island in 2000
when Noey was a seven month old puppy. 

Noey was always a good girl. She enjoyed her life on the farm,
had no health issues, and came into her own as the elder sibling 
when first Lukey, and then Blakey, joined the family.

This frequently resulted in a dog-jam,
when we were throwing kongs at the park

Noey slowed down somewhat in recent years,
yet remained spry and limber, and enjoyed her daily walks 
until the very last walk of the very last day when, 
for the first time, ever, she was unable to go.

We think she suffered a stroke, as her left front gave out on her.
She lay still through the long night, as her breathing slowed.
Yesterday the vet eased her passing,
after fourteen good years of living.

It was as peaceful a passing as one could wish for for a beloved dog.
Today is the third year since Pup's death,
and I had not expected to be dealing with two deaths this week.
But this is the way of life, especially when one loves dogs.
There are too many painful goodbyes.
Yet we would not be without them.

When I had a moment alone with her, I whispered to her
to say hi to Pup for me, when she gets to Heaven.
It's good to know she'll have someone she knows up there.

Noey, you were a good girl,
and we will miss you.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


google image

"Mother Earth feels your pain.
Let her feel your joy, too."
quote by my friend, Valerie Langer,
environmental activist

When you watch, 
on your tv screen,
Long Island and New Jersey
being swept away,
when earthquakes 
rumble off the west coast,
hurricanes sweep 
the eastern seaboard,
and tsunami warning alarms
echo throughout your town
at midnight,

when you pass logging trucks
hour upon hour
carrying away all the trees
we need to breathe,
and they tell us 
the ice and the tundra 
at the North Pole
is melting,

when you put together 
all the information
and come up with a reality
too frightening for words,

go ahead.
Feel the fear,
feel the terrible grief
that is guilt-based 
at our human assault
on the planet,
our greed,
our ignoring of the needs 
of future generations,
(our children and 
our children's children).

Feel your frustration 
at the multinationals'
Bottom Line,
which dictates 
all the rest,
and of world leaders 
who talk and talk
about the need 
to address global warming,
yet who never legislate 
the tough changes,
because re-election 
matters most.

As you watch the icebergs 
crash into the sea,
the polar bears drowning 
and starving,
the displaced black bears 
and hungry wolves
being shot because 
they came too near us
to look for food
for their babies,
as you watch the sea 
climb up over the banks 
and drown the towns,
as you feel Mother Nature's 
terrible dis-ease,
and hear the gray whale's
mournful song,

remember that Mother Earth 
is thanking you
for having the strength
to carry your grief.
Know that you are doing 
a service to mankind,
by helping to inform 
the global consciousness,
by being aware and able to
see clearly what most 
cannot bear 
to understand.

Remember, too, that 
no matter our fears,
we are, at this moment,
living on a planet 
full of beauty, 
mystery, creativity,
and wonder.
Be grateful for this gift.

Feel the joy of Now,
with all of its potential 
for transformation,
for grassroots Change.
Enjoy the daily panorama 
of visual beauty:
geese flying overhead
across a cerulean canvas,
sun glinting off a metal-hued sea,
babies' Buddha-smiles,
under our beautiful old round 
Grandmother Moon.

Let the beat of your pulse
join the rhythm of the earth's
own heartbeat,
knowing we are part of, 
and intricately connected to,
all of creation. 

Our pain joins the pain of
all of the sea of humanity.
Just so, our joy
carries us forth into tomorrow
on a tide of hope we can never
afford to relinquish.

Be grateful for being alive 
at this time of transition.
We were sent here because
we are strong enough 
to bear it,
strong enough to ride
the tidal wave
that will one day wash 
this planet clean
and allow it to, 
begin again.

Rather bleak, kids, and we must hold onto hope, recognize the grief but also embody the joy of being alive, right now, on Planet Earth. While all of the "discussions" about global warming continue, as to whether it exists, the news continues to report "natural disasters" weekly and, sometimes, daily.....tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, nuclear reactor meltdowns, extreme has been already happening for years. 

My friends and I were talking about this stuff in the eighties (and everyone thought we were crazy!), back then we might have turned things around, had the world begun to right the imbalances then. 

The most hope I glean comes from David Suzuki's quote - it is too late to stop it, it is already happening, but we can do things to slow its progress. Of course, they talk about how much that would cost - and ignore the cost if we DONT, which is unthinkable. Switching to clean energy would provide employment for millions all over the world.......tough legislation (which leaders avoid as re-election matters more to them).........requiring the multinationals who cause so much of the pollution to  pay proportionately out of their billions of dollars of profit to CLEAN UP THEIR MESS.........there is a lot we could do. I know. There would be revolution and bloodshed before corporations would part with a dollar of profit.

Meanwhile, the Talking goes on, endlessly. As long as money is all that matters, we are doomed. But I refuse to live without hope. I do know, one way or another, the earth will endure - with us, or without us.

posted for Sreejit's challenge at The Seeker's Dungeon to address the topic of global warming: the price of civilization