Old

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me…

Jenny Joseph

Three “old” poems — one for my grandmother, one for my mother, and one for me.

Grammie

When I am old, I shall buy a piano
And rest my fingers lightly on the keys, curved just so.
I’ll retrain them to move the way they did when I was a girl,
The time I accompanied my brother, Nichol,
While he played his violin for Calvin Coolidge.
I’ll play hymns on the upright

And sing along
With the nobody in the room.
And I will drink dessert wine
Even though I am a Baptist
One glass every night before bed
Because my doctor said I could.

SCN_0070

SCN_0071When I am old, I shall plant a garden
Not of practical vegetables like green beans and carrots,
But a banquet for the eyes.
Flowers,
A sumptuous spread of colors
That changes from week to week,
Crocuses, daffodils, bachelor buttons, and poppies.
I shall plant it close to the road
IMG_0494For the passers-by to feast upon
If they but take their time.
But to those who drive too fast,
I will shake my fist
And shout –
“Slow down!
You’re missing the best part of life!”

IMG_8576When I am old, I will pump iron.
I’ll pull my kettle bells out of the closet
And swing them.

I’ll do squats and lunges,
Deadlifts, presses,
Russian twists,
And Turkish get-ups.
My body may wear the softness of a slowed metabolism
But underneath I will be strong –
Strong enough to arm-wrestle with my children
And laugh at the absurdity of the thing
But still occasionally win.

Resurrection Branches

OsterpostkarteI was delighted to learn that the pussywillow is waved on Palm Sunday in many Eastern and Slavic churches.

“The Pussy Willow is also our Easter symbol,” said Father Czeslaw Krysa, rector of St. Casimir’s Church in Buffalo, in a 2013 article. He said that it is “one of the most prominent Easter symbols, because of the fact out of this dry, kind of twig all of a sudden bursts forth this beautiful flower of life, and it is the first bush that blooms.”

They call them “resurrection branches.”

Reading about them reminded me of a poem/prayer that I wrote back in January.

Oh Lord
I need a pick-me-up
For I am feeling down
Outside the snow is glittering, cold,
Inside my heart is brown
And dry and brittle, mostly dead,
Like last month’s Christmas tree
Weeping prickly needles
Which need be swept by me

IMG_8480I know You can’t restore the tree
To vibrant verdant green
— Well, yes, You could
And yes, You did
When Aaron’s rod was seen
Budding,
Blossoming,
Bearing fruit
— Can You do that with me?
Of course, You can —
but would You, Lord?
Miraculously use me?

For, Lord, You know I have this fear
I’m one of the eleven
Sticks that stayed quite dead and brown
Not bearing fruit for heaven

I fear I too am dead inside —
Like Lazarus, I stink —
Roll back the stone –
Call out my name –
Pull me from this brink

Of hopelessness
Of deadfulness —
I need to be made new
Please water me
Sunshine me
And let me grow in You.

Today the rocks and stones and pussywillows are crying out “Hosanna!”

Cold Morning

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the glittering icy brilliance of snow
and the pink-streaked watercolor dawn;
for the bare branches of trees whose tiniest twigs
point upward,
upward,
upward,
reminding me there is more.

thank you for the take-my-breath-away cold
that freezes in my throat,
and for the merino warmth of my scarf, hat, mittens, socks.
the bitterest cold helps me to appreciate
the snuggliest warmth.

this, this is a privilege
that my southern neighbors rarely know —
the nip on my nose,
the tears frozen in my eyes,
the soft flakes that land
(and sometimes melt)
on upturned chilly cheeks

thank You God for winter —
for leaned-on shovels
and salt-sprinkled sidewalks;
for glacial ground
where grass breaks instead of bends;
for barren landscapes
that belie the promise
of new Life
and Spring.

thank You God for most this amazing day.
may the ears of my ears awaken to hear
and the eyes of my eyes open to see.

may the tastebuds of my tongue
rejoice in snowflakes that land there,
outstretched and waiting,
as i am
for You

IMG_5220[1]I woke up this morning with the words of e e cummings’ poem “i thank You God for most this amazing” running through my head, but winter in New York has no “greenly leaping spirits of trees.” Instead, we have snow forecast.  Still, I’m thankful.

Hey Canada – Aboot some of your words….

There are strange things said, or at least so I’ve read,
By the neighbors up north of  U. S.
It’s more than just “-eh”. What I’m trying to say
Is there’s lingo I need to address.
They have one dollar loonies and two dollar toonies,
And couches are called Chesterfields;
A kilometre’s a click, a hoser’s a hick,
And a parkade is for parking your wheels.

XYay Tims!

Anna said, “Tim Hortons. Serving sub-par coffee and donuts since 1964, this fast-food type chain also serves bagels, chili, and sandwiches and is a strong Canadian icon. I almost cried in the Toronto airport when I was 14, returning from my first big overseas trip. It meant I was home. Stop by and order a double-double (regular coffee with two creams and two sugars) and be sure to ask someone about their Roll Up the Rim Campaign every March!”

’tis really no trouble to understand double-double-
One coffee – two sugars, two creams.
Electricity is hydro. Donair is a gyro.
Washroom means bathroom, it seems.
Poutine, I have heard, means fries, gravy and curds,
And while that sounds kind of yucky to me
I could stomach that dish – hey, it might be delish!
But I was shocked that they switched out my zee.

Just why do I feel that zee’s a big deal?
It is ’cause my name begins there.
I say “zee as in zebra” when I’m spelling to people
How to write it – a simple affair.
But still they say Daengle, instead of Zaengle
For them, I say “zee”, they hear “dee.”
Zed — it could help there, so listeners would not err
When distinguishing the good letter zee.

Yes, they use different words, these Canadian birds.
Like commotions are called kerfuffles.
When you awaken, they may serve you back-bacon,
And they carry knapsacks, not duffles.
They buy Timbits at Timmies. (Do they use sprinkles or jimmies?)
But, O Canada, this needs to be said —
Even though you say decal* — hey, what the heck, I’ll
Say thank you for making zee zed!

pronounced “deck-ul”

My Inner Porcupine

One of the most precious lessons I have learned (and am still learning) from my mother’s Alzheimer’s is not to take things personally.  I have such a tendency to do that!  When people say or do little things, and sometimes big things, that are mean or hurtful, I dwell on them.  With my mother, when she scolds or is angry, I just tell myself that it’s her illness talking.

The other day, I found myself doing it again — focusing on someone’s hurtful words and actions.  The thing is, other people may not have an Alzheimer’s problem, but they have a human problem.  We are all so painfully human.  Just as I excuse  my mother with her Alzheimer’s, I need to excuse others because they are just people.

Grace, grace, grace — so abundantly given to me, I should be able to share it.

There’s a porcupine within me
That bristles up at certain things
And I cannot quite control it
Or the turmoil that it brings.

When frightened, angry, hurt,
The little spears come into play,
And they prickle and they stab –
They make people move away.

Sometimes life is lonely,
With this porcupine inside.
Sometimes I don’t like me,
And I want to run and hide.

Why can’t I have a bunny
Hiding inside me?
With long soft ears and fluffy tail,
Huggable as can be.

Why can’t I have a puppy
Hiding there instead?
With wiggles, fun and energy –
A thing no one would dread.

But no, I have a porcupine
That I must learn to keep,
And the lessons that he teaches me
Are hard and sometimes deep.

But the lessons that I learn,
Painful though they be,
Help me to grow in grace, grace, grace –
And become a better me.