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3 Sep

Okay, so here’s a confession: in all my years of living in a world where words matter to me and I majored in English and took a year’s worth of poetry writing, I admit that I did not recognize the name of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who died on Friday.

Clearly, I have missed out.

Last week I posted about canning tomatoes…only I wasn’t really canning tomatoes. Here’s my first line in case you forgot or didn’t see it: “This is how I can tomatoes: with words.” Okay, now that that’s brutally clear, you’ll understand how I felt when I read Seamus Heaney’s poem, Digging. Here it is in full:


The cold smell of potato
mould, the squelch and
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts
of an edge
Through living roots
awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow
men like them.
Between my finger and
my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

(As quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Early Edition, September 1, 2013.)

Can you even stand how wonderful this is? And I get it! I so can relate. We may not be able or willing to can tomatoes or dig potatoes, but hopefully we writers can give something else to the world with our words:


Moments of recognition in a few words. Moments where people see themselves in language. Moments where our hearts and the hearts of our readers leap with shared longing.

I pray that I can deliver such moments.


News – and a short poem by a real poet

19 Feb

Well, it seems that hard work pays off – giving you more opportunities to work hard and keep busy and not get the dishes done. I’ve been asked to write several articles for an upcoming special edition of our local newspaper – and I’ll be paid!

I’ve written for the paper – a daily with a healthy circulation despite the hard times that papers have come across in recent years – several times since moving here, but I’ve never been paid for it. A year ago January, they asked me to begin a blog (which I call The View From my Window) on their “Area Voices” server, which was quite nice. Every post appears on their homepage and, in addition, about once a month they print one of the posts in their actual physical paper.

So now I guess I can call myself a real free-lance writer!

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I’m realizing that this means several things: 1) Deadlines; 2) Interviews and not just “out of my own head” stuff; and 3) A pay check. I’ll put up with the first two to get the last one.

In light of this time crunch and additional writing stress, I’m giving you something not entirely original this week and possibly the next couple of weeks as well. I might even have a guest blogger join us!

For today: this poem, by Jane Kenyon. I think this is my favorite poem in all creation.


Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
Let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

I Dream an Ocean

5 Feb

I live on the prairie, but I was born near the sea.
On rocky shores and tidepools I cut my teeth.
And it is never far from my mind.

So I give you this today – a poem, I suppose – because I can’t stop remembering.

I Imagine an Ocean

I pretend, sometimes, that the field to the east of my house is the sea. I imagine that the brown slopes are actually undulating waves; that the trees far off on the edge of the hill are trees on an island, waving their branches in a salt-scented breeze.

Not palm trees – no thank you – these are pine trees, the trees of my childhood, the trees of Puget Sound with their balsamic scent (Does that word work here? I choose to say it does.) and their sticky sap just waiting its turn to enfold unsuspecting bees which, in their amber prisons, will fascinate scientists millennia from now.
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I imagine my prairie ocean with the most success when it’s foggy and I cannot see the dirt. Then it’s easy to see phantom many-masted ships, their sails set and their scuppers gleaming. Or, more likely in these days, scurrying speed-boats, as we used to call them, their purpose apparently nothing more than making waves and scaring seagulls.

I imagine I am on a tall cliff – not unlike that of my youth – and I – why not? – a lighthouse keeper, a fog-horn blaster, the sole protector of sailor’s lives. Their one and only defense against a watery grave.

Would that I had been there for the Edmund Fitzgerald.

In the autumn when combines, like ships in the night, roam the sloping shores of my imagined ocean, I sit out on the deck and savor the sight: I am in a valued port, a sheltered haven where HMS John Deere tacks back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, in her attempts to reach safe harbor. I wave and shout, “Ahoy!” but the good ship cannot hear me over the chugging of her engines and she carries on – back and forth, back and forth, until, finally, she sails away, taking her fleet with her.

And I am left on deck, with nothing but my dried-up ocean, my memory of water, the scent of salt-spray tickling at my throat.

Bonus: For those of you who don’t know my reference, The Edmund Fitzgerald was an ore ship which sank in a storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. All 29 men in the crew perished. This video link is of a great song, by Gordon Lightfoot, titled, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The video is entirely footage of Lake Superior, the wreck itself, and with the song as the background.

Yes, I realize that I referenced a fresh-water incident in my salt-water poem…but it’s the ship which comes to mind when living in Minnesota!  In addition, I must say that I did not mean to be flippant about the wreck…it was a heart-breaking incident and remains, to this day, the largest ship ever to be lost on Lake Superior.

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