Saturday, December 29, 2012

Forty years ago I was 24

Today is one of those gray days when fog is a friend and memory is more real that what I see out the window.

I think of Bolinas with diaphanous women herding goats and the famous square jawed chef-spy walking the beach with her Bernese mountain dogs.

On days like this, when the grey sky turns me inward, I sometimes think of you and my life with and without you.

When we broke I told myself that if it took suffering like this to be a poet, I simply wouldn't be one. Add 40 years with only the occasional look into the realities of memory and here we are.  First drafts flowing over the virtual page and flashes of time appearing in words as I type.

The first time I saw you.  Come to the door in a wild pink figure forming dress that accentuated your big hips and Italian heritage I had no idea you'd be the one or that we'd break our hearts together while learning to grow up into the daily compromises of being adults.

Recall the time you wore the pinup lingerie?  I thought to myself you didn't look like my fantasy, but bit my tongue and kissed you anyway. Could you read the discord in my heart? Did the simple act of hiding it begin our split?

And oh the things I imagined when, after the break, I heard you were dime a dance in Oakland. Grinding with anyone who had a dime. I imagined it until it became a deep splinter festering in my skin. Those were the days when I'd get the hot flush and with staggering eyes begin to look for you everywhere.  Oh so often you would turn up, cementing my belief in your witch ways.

And I'd ride my motorcycle, auditioning for the role of organ donor  feeling the roar between my legs and imagining that I was free.  Less than a month after I bought the bike and I'm rolling through the air, Koe clinging to my back like a shell as we somersault onto the asphalt all shocked and bloody lucky to be alive and only aching.  She landed on me as I landed on the street, I cushioned the blow and she walked away (too sore to belly dance, but hardly maimed at all).

The chances we took.  Up there in the sierra foothills, you in the water tossing my grandmother's ruby ring and your diaphragm into the depths. Me lurking in the bee filled bushes stark naked and babbling.

Seeing you again after so many years makes the time trick real. My heart was ready to go when we met. The blockage of trauma and regret was shutting me down.  Who knew it would take an MI to wake me up and kick my butt back into gear?

I'm more myself these days.  Healthier. Mind is clearer than it's been in ages. And here I am. On a grey day fiddling that deep splinter that shifts occasionally and reminds me that it simply won't dissolve and remains encapsulated in the meat and occasionally shifting positions to remind me of the sharp points that stick for a lifetime.

I do hope each day is good to you. Most of mine are good to me.

May we both achieve abundance for those we love and for all we know and touch.

Tending the Trees I Plant

Woke thinking a good night, this cold is on the run.

Saw from my study window the pepper tree I planted with my son on Christmas day.

It was leaning forlornly against a boulder.  The wind had upset the roots.

Tree work in a weakened state got me sweating and feeling old.

Stood the tree.
Stomped the ground.
Soaked the roots too much and made a mush of things.

Shoved more soil on the base of the tree and mashed down my big booted feet into the muck.

If a good wind comes over the tree will go again.
I'll attend it.

I want it to grow.
I want it strong and healthy, part of a big family of peppers, ready for us to celebrate next Christmas.

Still the tree died before spring

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Good Life Happens

When you eat healthy, exercise, become mindful, and live healthy... good life happens!

Friday, September 28, 2012

With my grandson

Walking through the park

A brindled bull dog choke chained to my wrist

Pushing my year old grandson

snoozing in a three wheeled jogging stroller

I'm tender and tough

This old run down park is too.  

Paint crews know this place.

When the budget can spare the hours

they struggle to stay ahead of the graffiti.

We jog by two tatted gang kids

 moving toward the shadows cast by the old olive trees.

Shade and breeze beckon.

Laid out on the cool grass one hand on the dog,

long stretched and content,

the other on Logan's stroller.

I begin to doze.

                 Logan's chubby grubby toes turned out as he dreams

relax into

this most sweet

and joyful


Humming Bird Remembered

thunk and flutter

a hummingbird

stunned on the deck

smooth the iridescent feathers

run a finger over the still grey felt belly

beak opens

beak closes

small claws grasp the air

set the stunned bit of fast life

on a squash vine

an hour later


Naomi Shihab Nye

Nye's poems provide a way for people to connect with one another:

"Once we have the experience of absorbing a poem and feeling that appetite satisfied, then we have access to a language that is devoted to transporting the spirit. Just as there is something inside a compass that causes it to always return to true North, so there is something in poetry that can harmonize and refocus us."

Marvelous article:

Different Ways to Pray

There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,   
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow   
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long   
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,   
and were happy in spite of the pain,   
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen   
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.   
When they arrived at Mecca   
they would circle the holy places,   
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,   
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,   
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.   
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
      Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.   
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,   
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,   
and was famous for his laugh.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Different Ways to Pray” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995) 

Tomorrow morning I start a special practice designed by a special teacher.  I will start each day reading a poem out loud.  I plan to be in the pepper trees with the dreams of the previous night still visible in my memory.  Each poem is in a sealed envelop.  Each poem will evoke feelings I'll record. After a week, we'll share our insights in a our group.

I look forward to the arcs of light that will strike during my days. 

~ Dennis

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Integrative Medicine Magazine

I've been curating articles about integrative medicine as part of my experience during the Lifestyle Change Program at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.  I'm having a remarkable experience that is not only changing my lifestyle but delivering the health benefits and peace of mind I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.  Please read on if you are interested in this journey.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What the Saddu said.

I asked the Saddu,

"What do you do ...when you fart during Kundilini yoga class?

He said,

"Just let it be..."

Art and Life of Henri Hillnck

Henri Hillinck 1900 - 1956

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Hero's Journey

What ever your fate is...
whatever the hell happens, 
say "This is what I need."

It may look like a wreck
but go at it as thought it is an opportunity
a challenge.
If you bring love to that moment,
not discouragement, 
you will find the strength there.

Any disaster you can survive
is an improvement in your character, your stature
and your life.
What a privilege!

This is when the spontaneity of your own nature 
will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, 
you will see that the moments that seem like great failure
followed by great wreckage
are the incidents that have shaped the life you have now. 

You will see this is really true:
Nothing can happen to you that is not positive,
even though it looks and feels at the moment 
like a negative crisis.
It is not.
The crisis throw you back,
and when you are required exhibit strength...
it comes. 

-Joseph Campbell, A Hero's Journey

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A trick of time

At surfer's beach

truth be told

a rush of splayed bamboo

screens the waves

good sets rolling in

the young like seals

let gravity be the guide

surfers shower and peel wet suits to reveal new skin 

we talk


the past

share our sides of it

and wonder what happened in all those years

See?  It's all good

I am who I am

who I was meant to be

after all these years.

Me with my conventional joys, clogged heart, head in the sand

wondering what it I had just let go?

You with your uncut cords and highway stories from beyond the maps,

wondering what a white picket fence might have meant.

We think back to the paths we crossed and wonder how all this time's gone by

(And we both know time's a trick don't we?)

a trick of memory

Neil Young:

Thinking about what a
Friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie.

Or perhaps just a mis-placed atom

in a complex molecule of memory

bent to serve a story

that would make life bearable.

remove the atom

split the element

Can time alone turn a sore spot tender?

i know i didn't do

what you said

i know you have to remember it

the way you do

i forgive you this way

out of the old pain

and remain myself

Ian and Sylvia are singing Early Morning Rain

I set myself up for this

As I work grading student papers in my study

the cat sits on my desk.

His tail carves a question mark in the space before the screen.

I'm in the early morning rain

40 years ago.

waiting to move on

very stuck on the ground.

Like then,  I best be on my way

In the early morning pain.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sink and swim

I'm always surprised when I find a poem at the kitchen sink

the first few lines just swim in my mind

I've learned to get back to the blank blog page

and spill the ideas into virtual space

Moments of flow in the gray morning.

I'm going to turn the music on!

At my kitchen sink

I've found a poetry spot

a place that puts the images in my head

and draws the words from me

in the morning,

before the day begins

I stand at the kitchen sink and look out the window toward the sea

and I see

and occasionally record

the songs still springing from my heart

making tea

making tea on a foggy morning

breathe easy

lilacs bent with dew

buffalo grass grey with mist

the kettle sings then shrieks

like old memories that
radiate when held up to the light

no,  just hot tea
in white porcelain mug
on a foggy morning

dan baumbach photography

Thursday, March 29, 2012

second wedding anniversary

A rain swept hill in Crete

Sheltered in a Shepard's hut

So new in love

every day announced itself

a gift.

We said, Look at us!

We're living life!

So many years since that rainy afternoon

Bounce the grand baby on my knee

Watch our grown children laugh

Remember all of the meadows and hills
we topped.

I love you!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Henri Hillinck: Art

Portrait of his daughter Joanie, 1947

Henri Hillinck: Portrait of his daughter Jocelyn Date unknown
Henri Hillinck: Les Pigeons 1933

Henri Hillinck: Southwind 1939

Henri Self-Portrait

Pepita 1928

Mountain scape, unsigned undated


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Images of Henri Pierre Hillinck's work

I came across these snap shots today.  They are by Henri Hillinck.  Most likely done as a part of a series of prints he produced in 1939.  My guess is these pictures were taken by my Uncle Bill Hillinck  He was also known as Bill Ryan.  If anyone knows where the original prints are let me know?

Friday, March 09, 2012

water melon

Is anything sweeter
more satisfying
than the recollection of
a special point in time

when taste combines with sound and light
makes a memory?

Sweet cold water melon

served as a break
from heavy work on a hot day

I look out the picture window

and  remember

eating a slice of seedless morning melon.

dog's dream

What do dogs dream?

for surely they do dream

I watch Brindle dozing on the couch.

His eyes rolling behind closed lids
the big paws twitching
the gutteral snore turns to muffled woof and wheeze

is he chasing the road runner of his dreams?
is he connected with all dogs past, present, future,
hunting with the pack?

Or is it simply random neurons firing,
fueled by a reptilian biochemical breakdown
of kibble and the radiance of the sun
on his dun colored tiger striped back?

what do dogs dream when they sleep?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Issa on twitter

I wrote haiku

in high school

found Issa early

climbed Mount Fuji

like a snail

many times

many times

Thank you Denis Huckaby,
 the HS English teacher
who introduced me to Haiku.

Now Issa's  images are on twitter! 




stretched out on my couch

I looked through the window to see

20 birds

perched like leaves on the bare thin limbs of a tree

hunkered against a cold wind

facing into the breeze and riding the branches.

as one

they  launched

leaving the tree bare.

shortly after, I slipped into a sweet mid-day nap.

An old man blogging simple observational free verse when he should be working

No fool like an old fool?

A survivor spending time to let the optimistic candle of mindfulness generate images on virtual paper?

Still thinking in verse after all these years.

Is it enough to briefly set aside the mundane demands of the day to save some words?

Enough?   Not really, but something at least.