New Rules

We can no longer take for granted

the effortless gatherings we enjoyed pre-COVID.


We may never have that ease again;

truly, probably should not have that ease again.


How foolish we would be

to refuse to learn the lessons

taught by a disease that has claimed

so many of us so painfully and sorrowfully.


Things change.

Sometimes we don’t like the changes.

Let’s all just get over ourselves

and do what we can to keep ourselves and others healthy.

Just wear the mask when asked to.


Brother Tree

My Brother Tree and I commune every day,

this wise and kindly sugar oak,

I receiving strength, peace, and courage from him.


I do not know what he receives from me.

I cannot fathom what I could offer such a being as a tree.

I only know that we exchange a kind of energy in those moments

and that my life is gladdened by his presence.


Did you know that if you stand beneath your favorite tree

and hold a spray of leaves against your face,

or pick up a good handful from the earth,

if you breathe in the almost magical scent of happy tree,

that the strength, peace, and courage of that tree

are infused into your body, your mind, and your heart?


Try it one day; it’s real,

but you have to be open to it.

You have to invite it.

Trees are gentlefolk; they do not enter unless invited.


All spring, all summer, the trees labor to make leaves,

flowers, oxygen

for the sustaining of life on this planet,

to make homes and food for birds, for squirrels,

for tiny spineless beings too myriad to count.


And in autumn they rest. They shed the parts of themselves

that are no longer useful,

no longer healthy,

no longer beneficial.

And they restore themselves,

readying themselves for next season’s tasks.


Would that we could attain the wisdom of the trees.

Sick Soup

Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

That was my sick soup.


When the fever had broken

and I was hungry again

Mother fixed me a grilled cheese sandwich

and Campbell’s Tomato Soup

in a mug, not a bowl,

so I could drink it.


It almost made me think she loved me.

Touring the Estate

While walking in my yard today,

I smelled the trellised jasmine vine, so sweet.


The second-year asters standing tall and proud

Just making buds for this year’s exhibition

Are crowding out the fading pansy plants.


The sunflowers we planted for Ukraine

Are halfway up the fence and growing fast.


The garden phlox and purple echinacea

Are fighting it out for the title Best of Show.


I communed with bees and dragonflies

While walking in my yard today.


The sunflowers we planted for Ukraine

Are winning the war against the marigolds

Whose yellow/orange faces smile at me.


Of all the growing things that I can see,

The one who’s growing most of all is me.

Haikus on Marriage

Married five decades

Just as happy now as then

How do they do that?



Growing old together

Love’s mysteries discovered

Blessed marriage

Morning Walk

Shisa took me for a walk today.

I hadn’t planned a walk;

I had other, more productive ideas:

pull the weeds, spread the mulch.


Shisa doesn’t get that many walks anymore.

She has worn her arthritic hips out

with the many glorious walks she has taken

in her long and good life.


So when she started up the driveway

and looked back at me askance

(she would never go alone)

I had to follow.


Down the hill to the cul-de-sac,

sniffing this, peeing on that,

rolling in a neighbor’s new-cut grass.

Regular dog stuff.

Wonderful dogly delights.


She showed me where someone had

pushed the forest back on a vacant lot,

how you can see where the bank goes down to the creek,

where there are smells and sights she’d love to explore,

but it’s too steep, so she sniffs at the edges

and we go on our way.


She showed me where the car lives

that hit Calvin,

but we do not tarry long in front of that house.


She showed me the new brick-lined flowerbed

someone has just put around their mailbox

to keep the mail truck from killing the grass there.


She showed me that I can pull that hill now

better than I could when we first moved here,

seven springs ago.


She showed me how good our new black fence will look

when it is finished when you come up that hill.

She seems to like that fence.

Not for long, I suspect.


She showed me that the opportunity for a nice walk

on a beautiful June morning

before the heat sets in

is a foolish thing to waste

and that the weeds will still need pulling

tomorrow when maybe her hips

won’t even let her think about a walk.


I can hear my sister asking, “Did you take Shisa for a walk today?”




Shisa took me.


She looked up from her knitting

at her daughter across the room,

sprawled on the carpet

reading a hardback copy

of “The Nail in the Oak Tree.”


She took a sip from her wine glass

on the table next to her and popped

a cracker and a cube of extra-sharp cheddar cheese

into her mouth.


She stood.

“I’m going out to water the sunflower bed.

Wanna come? It’s pretty out.”


“Sure.” The girl marked her page

and slid her book into her satchel.


Outside, they stood on the driveway pavement

and discussed whether there was space

in this flower bed to add some zinnias,

or should they go in the bed on the other side of the yard.


Arms around each other,

they spent several amiable minutes

admiring the garden, the fireflies,

and the moon-filled night.


Their last evening together.

Chance Meeting

Rambling in an unfamiliar wood,

I happened upon a young man sitting at a piano.


He did not look up as I approached.

He did not speak in response to my greeting.


He was not real, or at least not alive.


He and his piano had been there for a long, long time.


His instrument was half rotted away, leaf-covered, silent.


He appeared a plastic mannequin, weathered and pale.


What happenstance had placed them in this unlikely setting?


I pondered this as I sat on a nearby stump and ate my hiker’s lunch.


I decided I’d keep them company while I rested for a bit.


I said, “It’s very nice to make your acquaintance, sir.”

He didn’t answer.


“You live in a lovely wood.”

No reply.


He remained mute when I asked how long he’d been there.


I chattered on.

He made no comment to any of my remarks.


In an hour, I stood to leave. I doffed my baseball cap

and told him I’d enjoyed spending time with him,

and turned to leave.


As I walked away, I heard music.


Pick a place.

Anywhere on this planet.

You’ll likely find chaos.

Suffering. Pain. Cruelty.

Oppression. Greed.


Humans can be a pretty despicable bunch.

Have we even yet seen the extent of

man’s talent for debauchery?

I fear not.


Sometimes it’s overwhelming.

We wake up not knowing what atrocity

will be the Breaking News this morning.

Catastrophes. War. Disasters. Famine.


Some say it’s always been this way;

we just know more.


I disagree.

There’s always been evil, yes;

but the creativity of man has led to

ever more inventive methods of

exploitation and abuse.

We are a creative lot.


But I have an antidote to the despair and misery,

for those who need relief.



Find a forest

or even a single beautiful, growing thing.

Outside is best, but inside works, too.


Sit with it.

Breathe it.

Be with it.


For while we humans often behave destructively,

nature seldom does.

And the hearts of good people

can take only so much of witnessing profanity.


We need a solace.


Dr. Me prescribes sunshine, flowers,

the wind playing in your hair,

bare feet on good earth.

Ice cream cones, clear water,

walking in showers, playing in the sea,

a brilliant red tree in a field of gloriously purple lavender.


The fresh new smell of fresh new babies:

human, puppies, kittens, chicks, goats.

Most any baby will work.


Remind yourself that this Earth still has beauty,

still has goodness,

still has joy.


You mustn’t look only at the ugly things.


Save yourself from despair with Nature.

The Trees Speak

“Whose woods these are I think I know,”

You can’t really own us, though.

You tell yourselves, “Those trees are ours,”

but no one owns the leafy bowers

or fragrant flowers.


We gracious beings share your lives;

You count us up by tens and fives.

You think you’re clever, rich, and smart.

You’re big on brains, but not on heart.

Please do your part.


There is no life without our work.

We do it well and never shirk.

We give you breath and life and air

and nest small creatures in our hair.

Yet you don’t care.


You cut us down and break our hearts

and haul us off on rolling carts.

You simply do not understand

that Earth is dying by your hand.

You rape the land.


We’ll continue to do our bit,

even though you don’t recognize it.

We have a job—a job we’ll do

long, long after humanity’s through.

There’ll be no You.


Then Earth will start to make repair

and hope we never have to share

this planet with mankind ever again

once we erase your selfish stain.

We will remain.


(The first line is from Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”; I have also followed a similar rhyme scheme.).

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