Spots of Time

small moments & found meaning

Monday, December 30, 2013

Rules for Writing

I find other people's rules for writing inspiring, in that self-confirming kind of way. Today, it's the "narrow down, exclude" that strikes me. What Miller doesn't say, however, is that you have to "open up, include" before you can "narrow down, exclude." Maybe the "open up, include" got cut when he narrowed down his commandments? 

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Selway

On the walk out this morning, I met a guy named Phil. We pawed the muddy path as we talked, looking down at our hiking boots. He wore an expensive set of binoculars on his shoulder and a blue shirt holed with tiny tears. He spoke with a southern drawl. "I love the sound," he said. "The world disappears back here."

It was his first time up the trail, he told me. He'd driven the twenty slow miles to the trailhead on a lark, and since it was such a nice day, he'd headed up the trail, following the river. "It's a whole different kinda world back here," he said.

We shook hands. I kept thinking about the worlds and the sound.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years

These Days

whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them

And the dirt

Just to make clear
where they come from

-Charles Olson

Saturday, November 07, 2009

What I'm Reading

Allison Hedge-Coke's Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival.
I heard Allison speak at a conference recently. The title of her panel intrigued me: "Witnessing: A Workshop." I came into the room late and sat at the back. Allison was sitting at the front speaking so quietly I had to strain to hear. She told of being a shy child who was extra-sensative to the outside world. She wasn't as attentive to the social networks around her as she was to the way the shadow of a tree fell upon the grass each day or the way animals gathered in a certain section of her native landscape.
After a several minutes, I moved closer to the front so I could hear better. Allison stopped her narrative and had us do some amazingly generative exercises, instructing us to "witness" our surroundings. She then told us about survival. "Survival is a catch-all word in contemporary culture," she said. "But survival is more than that. It's an active force." Later, I looked up "active force." It's a physiological term that refers to the length of a muscle in proportion to its strength. Survival, then, is located in the heart of the body, literally (the examples I found referred to the heart muscle, specifically).
After her talk, I went up to Allison and said I had to buy her book. She told me to go to the University of Nebraska Press's table and tell them, "I know there's only one left, but Allison said I could buy it." Which I did, directly. The book table woman seemed a little flustered, but with my determination, what could she say? She slid my credit card and the book was mine.
Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is, according to the University of Nebraska Press, a narrative of Hedge Coke's life "as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off-reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Cherokee and Huron heritage. . . . The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to the life-revelations that brought Hedge Coke through her trials, the melding of language and experience that has brought order to her life."

Books added to my list for the holidays:

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place
Paul Sutter, Driven Wild
Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities
Donald Appleyard, Livable Streets
William Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I'm in the process of updating and cleaning up my blog. Be back soon!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Jack and Dick passed this past month.

Jack, my father-in-law and Dick, my maternal uncle.

Jack had five sons, a number of grandchildren, and adored his wife. He was active in a local church and, although he made his sons tough out numerous hockey practices in -70 degree Canadian winters, he could cry at the drop of a hat.

Dick spent his life writing poetry, taking art photographs, and--as a former alcoholic--helping people who were addicted to drugs and alcohol pull themselves out of the gutter.

The memorials for both these men were crowded with people who loved them, and who were loved by them. I was fortunate to have been one of those people.


Poem read by a woman I didn't know for Dick:

The Rose
by Theodore Roethke

There are those to whom place is unimportant,
But this place, where sea and fresh water meet,
Is important–

Where the hawks sway out into the wind,
Without a single wingbeat,
And the eagles sail low over the fir trees,
And the gulls cry against the crows
In the curved harbors,
And the tide rises up against the grass
Nibbled by sheep and rabbits.

A time for watching the tide,
For the heron’s hieratic fishing,
For the sleepy cries of the towhee,
The morning birds gone, the twittering finches,
But still the flash of the kingfisher, the wingbeat of the scoter,
The sun a ball of fire coming down over the water,
The last geese crossing against the reflected afterlight,
The moon retreating into a vague cloud-shape
To the cries of the owl, the eerie whooper.
The old log subsides with the lessening waves,
And there is silence.

As when a ship sails with a light wind–
The waves less than the ripples made by rising fish,
The lacelike wrinkles of the wake widening, thinning out,
Sliding away from the traveler’s eye,
The prow pitching easily up and down,
The whole ship rolling slightly sideways,
The stern high, dipping like a child’s boat in a pond–
Our motion continues.

And this rose, this rose in the sea-wind,
Stays in its true place,
Flowering out of the dark,
Widening at high noon, face upward,
A single wild rose, struggling out of the white embrace of the morning-glory,
Out of the briary hedge, the tangle of matted underbrush,
Beyond the clover, the ragged hay,
Beyond the sea pine, the oak, the wind-tipped madrona,
Moving with the waves, the undulating driftwood,
Where the slow creek winds down to the black sand of the shore
With its thick grassy scum and crabs scuttling back into their glistening craters.

And I think of roses, roses,
White and red, in the wide six-hundred-foot greenhouses,
And my father standing astride the cement benches,
Lifting me high over the four-foot stems, the Mrs. Russells, and his own elaborate hybrids,
And how those flowerheads seemed to flow toward me, to beckon me, only a child, out of myself.

What need for heaven then,
With that man, and those roses?


Song played over the church speakers for Jack:

I Can Only Imagine
by Bart Millard

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in honour of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
When I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine