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A Lesson for Today

“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”

–the last line of Robert Frost’s poem, “A Lesson for Today.” The line is inscribed on his headstone.

apple blossoms 4-18




November 28-Northern_FlickerEvery day for a week, a flicker called from atop our fence. Beautiful, with its graceful long beak, speckled chest and red cheeks. I talked back to the bird through the window and he seemed to respond. Two more flickers perched in our backyard tree.

On Thanksgiving our furnace stopped working. After a cold night of sleeping under electric blankets, the furnace repair guy came over and tested the furnace. “Not enough air getting to the intake,” he said, and then, “Wow, I’ve never seen this before.”

It was a flicker stuck in the flue. It had fallen down the chimney and gotten sucked nearly into the furnace itself. It had suffocated. My husband put its body in a bag outside the back door. That day, “my” flicker did not call from the fence, nor did the pair watch from the tree. They knew their friend was not coming back.

It was a non-human drama that we had the privilege to notice. How many communications are happening outside that we are oblivious to? Whether we are aware or not, we are part of nature’s conversation, part of Earth’s body humming, part of a consciousness that encompasses all forms of life. The life of the Earth is also our life.

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a solstice gift




A dusting of snow on the ground, undisturbed but for rabbit tracks. Cold and quiet. Flocks of geese circle and land on the lake. The sky and the ground white. I pass under a tree, the freshness of winter’s heart in my nose.

At the upper pond, mallards quack at my approach and swim, their wake like bridal veils. Bare cottonwoods dip their roots into the chill water. A pair of male mallards linger on the bank, watch me from the sides of their green heads while I snap a photo. Their calmness embraces the quiet of the day. I become the moment and snow begins to fall. Like a thousand blessings, like a solstice gift.


Bridge to compassion

I do not lose my temper, though it rises up in me like a storm of dust and threatens to come out my mouth. I hold my mouth closed and smile, and somehow—I don’t know how—I stop my harsh, dusty, harmful words.

Behind a vacant church, a sloping ravine dips between winter trees; a handmade wooden bridge straddles the gap. A wooden cross and rough benches suggest a tiny outdoor chapel.


I touch a metal plaque mounted to the cross, its letters worn nearly away from age and weather: “Dedicated by St. George’s Church.” The people are long-gone, but their simple prayer garden still speaks. I thank the absent angels as I cross their bridge, grateful for grace that allows me to cross over to compassion.

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The Creativity of Sparrows

On this bright, cold day, little brown house sparrows dance on top of a brown bush as I approach, disappear inside the bush in a quick flurry. I disappear into my woolen scarf and hood, draw inward to my thoughts.

Twenty paces past the bush, I turn. Sentry males pop back to the surface, black and white throats suddenly distinct against the brown backdrop.

In winter’s dullness, bright creatures weather killing cold to breed in spring. My creative embryos grow unseen until longer days, when warmth draws them forth.