Lessons in the Wind

windy day sky and bunchgrass scrubOut the window, a bright-burning circle of sun cut into a cobalt sky. The dogs seem to notice, too. They smash their noses against the sliding-glass door eager for their daily romp. The day is cool with a slight breeze, so off we go into the fields. We walk too far, stay too long and the harsh evening winds descend. Dust devils swirl and tumble weeds bounce across the earth. The leaves of the silver sage shake and the air fills with its sharp scent. A gust blows. My ears turn cold and crimson. My hair ― a wild lion’s mane.

The dogs run through bunchgrass that stands taller than their shoulders. I call to them, but the wind hushes my voice. As the sun and the temperature lowers, I turn back towards home. The wind pushes against me. My pace is slow. Grueling. I can’t see the dogs, but somehow they meet me at the gate, panting ― their long, pink tongues hanging out of their mouths. I’m wind-weary and disheveled, but full of endorphin-flowing exhilaration.

A tree falls on Tyler’s house. My student’s and I can hear the wind rage outside the classroom. A freight-train wind, we call it. Gusts up to 60-80 mph are not unusual here in the high desert. We are writing stories, when someone says, “Tyler, a tree just fell on your house.” We look out the window, and there it is, the tree thrust inside the shattered roof. Tyler walks out of the classroom. We watch him from the window. He crosses the street. Stares at his ruined home. That night, his family moves out of the house until the tree is removed and the roof is repaired.

That same day, I find our camper in the middle of the long, gravel driveway that leads to our home. The wind had grabbed the camper, tossed it like a tumble weed. It landed on its back, its feet sticking up. I stop my truck, get out and walk over to check the damages. I peer through the window. Everything is upside down. The clothes that hung from a rod in the closet spread across the ceiling, which is now the floor and littered with broken dishes, pots and pans. Later, the ruined camper will be hauled off, and a new one will replace it.

As the sun sets and the night grows black, I listen to the winds howl, rattle the old stove pipe like brittle bones. The stove-vents clap and the windows shake, keeping me from sleep. Living in this land of wind, I see its power. The wind brings change; it tears down the old, and from the wreckage, new directions flow.

Kandi MaxwellKandi Maxwell lives and writes in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. She walks through forests, soaks and splashes in rivers, lakes and hot springs, and bends frequently in downward dog. She is a retired high school English teacher. Her work has been published in Fair Haven Literary Review, KYSO Flash, The Raven’s Perch, One in Four, Foliate Oak, and others. Her work has been nominated for The Best American Essay series.

Photo by the author

Synthesis Of Light

The way Sabrina (almost six-years-old) lays on her bed
and plays her iPad for half an hour. Like the way an owl
can turn his head totally around since he/she has no eye
ligaments or nerves to keep the eyes moving without
the head. Sabrina loves playing dolls with me, her father,
and she has a doll house that we use sometimes.
Mainly we talk, as if plants have ears, and I heard
they do, by means of flowers. Our talking among flowers
it is best to do so directly, and their brighter flowers
will improve the garden.

The mountains hold everything providing light,
whether it be clear or dark—stars whisper to
the moon, like when you talk to me, and shine
right back to us, up on the mountain top,
arriving at six a.m. The sun rises over the edge
of the mountain before its full body is seen.
As its body illustrates pops from the sun’s
surface and day-lilies outside the coffeehouse,
we will drink dark roast decaf and talk to each
other like a window opening and no one disturbs
the hush of the window opening but a crowd
is heard in the background. I want to hold
your hand and do so. I want to toss your hair
with love twirls and tell everything in silence
since we first started dating and married not
yet whole in ourselves. It takes time to grow,
and the sunlight illustrates through those
day-lilies ripening outside as we stare out
the window until we rise, get another cup,
and go out and trust in the day ahead to guide
and shape us into who we want us to be.

There is nothing
I will not do to keep
light on your face
until the sun
deepens its fade
into stars
and moon of eve,
and then we will
both grow even
then, even any
-time. I just want
you loved by me
to see our dreams
coming true
as day-lilies held,
squeezed tight,
and planted even more
due to the sun
and dark at night
with the sun again
in the a.m. preparing
its heat and day-lilies
opening once the light
turns to both itself
and heat
for the afternoon
calling lemonade
to quench
our thirst appearing
as the first
light of morning.

When are you going to the peach tree
again? Like a movie we’ve seen numerous
times because of comedy, lucidness,
and delight in philosophy? I just see you
with an arm around me, which doesn’t
occur often, but does when I need a hug,
and then a couple of minutes is all outstanding.
Under the peach tree you sit so the sunlight
doesn’t pinch your eyes closed, and you
take a bite of a peach that fell and you
had to stretch to catch it. Its own
hunger fills your body, an enormous
task to do so by itself, not because
of you but the peach having to work
through photosynthesis, and the juice
slushes down your skin into your hand
under chin until you sleep in the heat
of afternoon, and I sit and dream
right next to you.

After peaches picked from the trees and taken home,
Grandpa makes the best homemade ice cream ever
tasted, even now with specialty ice cream places around
town that could fill streets if not so separated, and I
find you in a dream eating that ice cream before death
rings true to my Grandpa, and the doctors said prepare
for seven more years when the newly formed arteries
and vesicles will run themselves out. Grandma soon
moves to a nursing home after a car crash,
not resembling my own low blood sugar diabetic ones,
and lives as long as her sister did, ten years in the home,
and then the call from the home told my Dad and we
both went out to see her lying in her bed with her eyes
closed and a smile upon her face; she hasn’t looked
this good in ten years, the dementia had left her body
as did her spirit, into heaven, and finally met her love,
Grandpa, over fifteen years apart. I dreamt they simply
walked in parks or sat on chairs and fished, and maybe
even went camping in the fall before it cleared. The light
remained on them both without having to do a thing.
And life seemed to last a blink of a moment looking
back and seeing them together for all the years,
and even past their moving to St. Louis from
Chillicothe after their 50th wedding anniversary.

In the phosphorescent morning, as the squirrels
and birds fly to catch a new fresh breath tasting
of the clouds and of fog, a new trip to the western
part of the U.S., and all I need is your breath
to wake me, like the boat that offers its own wake
where water skiers pass into and out of that wake,
and nothing can at this high tide hour. At the lake
there are some smaller mountains, and I’ve hiked
some but not many or often. I’ve never really looked
into the trail situation. I hiked when I went to school
in Flagstaff, sometimes everyday in summer,
but weekends during school hours. It will be great
when we both and Sabrina get to go out there
and see the vastness that awaits. Please let us
have fun on the vortexes too! It’s really windy there.
It’s really windy on the vortex due to the equilibrium
that exists on them. Their trying to continue
feeling from one day to the next, like with meditation.
It’s in the light I see you swimming back at the dock.
I want to be there with you when we otherwise
could be somewhere else doing something else.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk about hiking all I
have done in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon
as it’s something needing the experience
to understand. I haven’t really been able to find
the words to explain the experience; it’s like
running backward and having people asking
what it’s like, and there’s no answer to give.
In the calmness of the night language can
provide what’s necessary to continue to try
and distill the answers about all the hiking,
and that’s the best I can really do.

Only when I write do I shine forth enough beauty…
whether here or not, I’d like to think I do for you.

By Bradley Bates

father and daughter silhouettes at sunset

Photo Copyright: BlueOrange Studio

Raven, Two Views

Alone, its kind
shunning the gregarious life
of crows, its sparse cries
bringing no reply, raven circles
between street and chaparral—
now closed, night-dark atop
a power pole, now flashing silver
above creosote bush, now back
to land on wires, swaying.

Parked car at the curb, raven
clings with yellow feet
to the narrow ledge holding
the driver window in place,
topples, nearly falls, flaps
wings, balances, beak pressed
close to its shadow self
in the glass. Pressed close and, yes —

By Diane Lee Moomey

Diane has lived and wandered around the US and Canada, and now dips her gardener’s hands in California dirt. A regular reader at San Francisco Bay Area poetry venues, Diane has published prose and poetry, most recently in Mezzo Cammin, Peacock Journal, The Sand Hill Review, California Poetry Quarterly, Caesura and Red Wheelbarrow, and has been nominated for a Pushcart prize. She won first prize and an Honorable Mention in the Sonnet category of the 2016 Soul Making Keats Literary Contest, and first prize in the Creative Non-Fiction category of the same competition.

To read more, please visit her page at Poets & Writers.

Juniper Tree, Arches National Monument, Utah

to a photograph by Eliot Porter

We humans arrange time to continue to emerge,
each second a new chance to leave behind
the ghost of was, the disappointment,
the salmon that leaped away. We’re not
like rocks, not like the blue-faced rock,
not like the marble cliff or granite boulder.
Their unmoving’s silent, yet we think they tell us
something. We visit them, some of us drive
speeding vehicles through miles of time
and parts of our lives to reach places where
we might hear the rocks. Their immensity
makes us small, insignificant, makes
our need to move seem unreal. We’re
no longer nervous. We give in to tiredness,
we lean on the hard, rain-stained surface.
When night comes, we dream of being lizard,
or juniper tree so many years old half the foliage
is dead and the rest hangs on, minute by minute,
a single strand of matter stubbornly living
in the crack of the rock.

By Grace Marie Grafton

Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poetry, which can be reviewed on Cover for Whimsey, Reticence & LaudAmazon’s site. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a redwood tree outside her kitchen door and a native live oak next to her deck. Nearby are red squirrels, raccoons, salamanders, and (never seen) mountain lions. Other of her nature poems can be found in Canary (online), Peacock Journal (online), Third Wednesday, Poecology and The Common Ground Review. Her book, Whimsy, Reticence and Laud: unruly sonnets, is rooted in her love of nature. She has taught for decades with CA Poets in the Schools, frequently taking her grade school students outdoors for their poetry lessons.

The Eliot Porter photograph may be viewed here.

In the Moment

for Vicky D.

As often as it happens, when
you see a sudden deer
standing still as the mountain it lives on
there’s a silence that runs deep
into the earth
for the moment until
a shiver of sound
is caught in the wide open ears
and the head turns a few degrees
before she runs through summer’s grass
and disappears into the calls
of an oriole in woodland.
Such moments remind us
this is land between granite and grass
with horizons that tilt
beneath storms in their season
and valleys where thirst
runs on a riverbed
until the day the rains draw
toads from underground
to become the beating hearts of night.
This is the time
trees sing to themselves,
when owls are quick and stars
flow across the peaks. Look out
into the universe, take a step
in the moon’s direction
and look back at what surrounds you:
bedrock, cactus ribs, gravel trails
and junipers. After sunrise
you might find a rattlesnake stretching
out on a warming trail, look
a bear in the eyes as he ambles
on the other bank of a stream, or flush
a covey of quail from the shade,
and surprise will be what binds you all
to common ground.

By David Chorlton

cactus and sunset lit butte in Hewitt Canyon, Arizona

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications on- and off-line, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Photo by Anton Foltin