Posts Tagged ‘opposites’

The View from Mattie’s Pillow

January 20, 2013

Redpolls and Chickadees

Thanks to football (words I never thought I’d write), I’m having a pleasant day home alone, listening to From the Top on NPR, a classical music show featuring young musicians, this week focused on music honoring the life and ideals of Martin Luther King. And thanks to Dr. King, this pleasant Sunday will be followed by a day off from teaching, a day I hope to spend, in part, listening to Obama’s second inaugural address. Because we are in the farthest US time zone from the East Coast (other than Hawaii), the whole inaugural shebang will be over by 10am—plenty of time to longe horses or do a thorough cleaning of the corral and gather my wits for the long semester ahead.

Before I sat down to write, I was watching redpolls at our new yellow feeder. Pushy little birds, they chatter and flutter at each other, trying to get the best spot to peck at the sunflower and thistle mix we’ve put out for them. They seem to have driven the chickadees away by their sheer number and pushiness, though I know the chickadees are still out in the bare willows, because I hear their calls when I go out to visit the horses—“deee—dee—dee.” They are politer birds, perhaps, waiting till the plainer redpolls have glutted for the day to come and perch at the feeder. Or perhaps someone else in the neighborhood has food that they like better. Watching the redpolls, so active and plucky, I made a mental list for the day—writing this is item number one.

I suppose I could make analogies between the pushy birds and politics—but their energy is not a difference of opinion with chickadees, but the essential energy of living things: hungry, eager, joyful, crabby, soaring, and squabbling. As I walk up to the glass door to the deck, they sense my motion and blow away as abruptly as if caught by a sudden gust of wind. If I stand still, they venture back one at a time till they are again feeding chattily away. The cat sits at my feet, watching them, plotting her summer moves. In summer, much to her disappointment, I move the feeder and stop filling it, so she is forced to hunt voles in the hay barn instead.

Thinking of Dr. King and of Obama, I remember the flocking of people from around the country to hear each man speak, a couple generations apart. For us, the attractive food is hope, something that has been in short supply in recent years—certainly in many desperate spots around the world. Looking back over this blog, I found this paragraph from Inauguration Day four years ago:

“It’s been a long dark journey through a kind of national despair for the past eight years, when the public dialogue has been driven by fear and impulse rather than reflection and reason. Horses can be made dangerous and frightening by humans who react around them out of fear–perhaps that’s also true of a nation. And horses can be calmed and rehabilitated by a calmer, reasonable presence. Perhaps we all long for that, as well. It’s a lot to place on one human being, to calm and redirect the restless herd of our national psyche, but, as I’ve said to friends here, an election isn’t about one person, it’s about us and who we want ourselves collectively to be. So, as light progresses here, we’ll watch to see how light can be progressively shed on us all with the turn of the political season. I wish for Obama all the best tools of horse and dog training: to be calm, attentive, clear-headed, non-reactive, and to lead by reward and praise rather than by punishment and fear.”

How much has changed? Well, I suppose that depends on your world view. But what I had hoped for in Obama seems to be played out in who he has proved to be; he’s famously cool rather than reactive, and seems to be learning how to balance the carrot and the stick politically. Our nation seems to have divided, say, into redpolls and chickadees—but we are still one flock, and have our humanity in common with people everywhere. I wouldn’t trade places with Obama, but I’m glad he’s there, doing the difficult work of keeping us focused on what we have in common and living out the dream that King put forward all those years ago.

Today, I notice the light returning even more than I did last week. We are now a full month away from solstice, with as much light as we had in Thanksgiving. I’m already thinking of the garden and of my plans for Mattie and Sam this summer. We have months to go before we see the ground again, but we have hope.

Poetry Challenge 60

December 18, 2010

Days away from solstice now.  The light is slaty blue in the deep afternoon–sundown around 3:30 and losing a minute and a half of daylight each day.  Temperatures hovering at around thirty below.  Things that don’t seem to belong together merge: the cold of metal feels hot to the touch; hands turn to flippers in  layers of gloves topped with mittens; the darkness holds light reflected in all directions by the white snow; the ice on the roads gains friction as the temperature drops; and deep in our drowsing psyches, some wild energy stirs, gives us dreams, reminds us of the extravagance of spring months away.  Someone asked what the brief time between sunrise and sunset should be called and I suggested “dawnset,” the state of daylight for us in the Interior this time of year.

So write about opposites merging, their energy, their resolution into a whole.  Or write a complaint about the deep bitter cold.


Poetry Challenge 44

April 7, 2010

I hear that it’s spring in some locations south of here.  Trish McConnell in her blog The Other End of the Leash posted some stunning photos of crocuses and daffodils.  But here in the Interior, we have piles of gray snow, melting and refreezing puddles, and lots of brown ground.  It will be a month before the first green.

So write about opposites found in one thing–winter embedded in a spring month, the dog with the cat-like traits–or how opposites are more like each other than they are different.

Send a poem as a comment and I’ll post it here.

Poetry Challenge 7

February 16, 2009

Sun and Moon.  In the Effie Kokrine class, Climate Change and Creative Expression, we talked about where the sun and moon are in the sky right now.  In Alaska, in winter, the sunrise is always to the south, though, in summer, it can travel nearly a full circuit of the sky northeast to northwest. 

So, write a poem that lets the reader know something about where you live, using images of the sun and/or moon.  Stay objective–how does the sun reflect off the snow, for example, or what do the pock marks on the moon remind you of.   Let the poem take you somewhere else if it wants to.



Rseponse from Glow

October to December,
spruce hang dark
birches cast no shadow
moose merge invisible
Arctic blue lurks
even at midday.

early January
clamors its arrival
a sliver of sun
a mere morsel
creeps for seconds only
across the kitchen wall.


My response:

At the kitchen table
sun slants across
my keyboard, warms
my fingers, a subtle energy
on joints so fluid now,
so stiff when I walk
outside, gloves off, to hold
curled fingers to the nose
of the horse whose breath
on my hands keeps cold
from penetrating to bone.

Bone, that tree that muscle
blooms from like the leaves
that carry sunlight to root
and back to bud; that anchor
that holds the horse to ground,
strung with ligament, tendon,
the oval cap of knee; that pedestal
that holds the tank of the body
gurgling with hay and the cage
of ribs that buoys the rider’s
body; that push against the ground,
that leap ahead, mimicking flight.

It starts with sun
on grass, green light
through a blade of brome,
the quick flash and gleam
in summer breezes, the busy
capturing of warmth and light
into stalks and leaves
joyously tall before the mower
passes, then sun-dried, turned,
baled, stacked, opened, spread
chewed by horses
feeding belly and bone,
preparing for flight.

Poetry Challenge 4

January 27, 2009

Opposites.  Think of opposite pairs: Snow/rain; owls/voles; moonlight/sunlight; blue/orange–pick your own set.  Write aobut what they have in common using everyday objects or observations.  Post your poem here!

Here’s a response from Glow at Beyond Ester:

old dog
grinning through teeth worn to the gums
by thousands of frisbees
grizzled muzzle shines silver
groans as she rises with glee
to walk with her beloved Ones

young dog
snarking at the cats and our coat tails
shiny sharp shark teeth
muzzle smooth as dark chocolate
lunges at the door beyond happiness
to prance among her beloved Ones


This is a bit like cheating, but here’s a poem I wrote in summer in response to this prompt:

Plants Retake the Sidewalk


leaves bunched and feathery

as carrot leaves, the tight

knob of yellow center

the sweet bitter taste

that soothes the tongue,

edges up through the crack

of sidewalk, dusty,

a bit the worse for wear,

dodging flipflops,

sandals. Each plant boosts

small suns, reaching

towards the brilliant

sky. Defy

hard edges, find moisture

in dryness, head out-

dream through what seems

no dream. This hard

world. Some


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