Wednesday, August 1, 2012


A swarm of crows came over the canyon wall,

noisy, and headed straight across the canyon –

dipping and yawing, but straight.

Where big birds circle the air currents, spiraling –

playing with the wind –

these crows beat their wings hard

efforting like a college crew team

or a pirate ship of rowers in high seas.

Sudden downdrafts take them as much as 10 feet,

but they struggle to rise again to the main wave

straight as an arrow across the canyon's gulf.

  (draft July, edit August 2012)


Billows and streams and patchy fields

Layers, eddies and whirlpools

Chasing and racing

Watching, waiting and playing

Air is alive with wind, rain and heat

Minerals, meteorites

Dust and dust mites

Currents of Earthy life complete

Clouds are air made visible

(first draft July, edit August 2012)


This past Independence Day, I was invited to an event in Spokane, Wash., that was one of my favorite 4th of July holidays to-date: we simply spent a part of the afternoon reading the Declaration of Independence.
The old-timers also led the group in a rendition of “Rally ’Round the Flag” and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance (haven’t done that since … grade school?).

There was picnicking, and live music, and we enjoyed a few short sincere political speeches with a true feeling of Come one, Come all.
As Americans, we value the notion of “freedom” and our rights to our passionate opinions in a respectful and civil discourse. This event embodied these values. What a beautiful Independence Day.
Thank you, organizers, for Freedom at the Arboretum 2012, the 50th anniversary of this event in Spokane. You make me proud to be an American, and hopeful for our future as a nation and a people.

(July 2012)


Hawk cry, faint.

Scan the horizon –

low, high

on the canyon side

low, high

on the railroad side

Hawk cry, sharp.

Scan the canyon –

low, swooping up

out of the canyon bottom

low, high over the trees

and circle



right before me


blue sky

hawk cry

fire in the belly

(March 2012)


I’m an odd bird


I think we’re all odd birds

here to explore and share

our odd-bird-ness

with the world

(March 2012)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Victorian 1%

For its February 2012 read, my book club in Spokane, Washington, chose The Picture of Dorian Gray by Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). The famous novel was the notorious artist's only book-form work of fiction. It has directly inspired at least two movies in the last 70 years (the first in 1945 with a very young Angela Lansbury), and its publication contributed damningly to his condemnation and subsequent imprisonment in the British legal system, ostensibly for homosexuality, resulting in his early death at just 46 years old.

The book club reads at least one "classic" a year, and what I love most about this exercise is recognizing common elements of humanity that express themselves throughout the ages. It's what makes Plato's work still comprehensible to us, or War and Peace, and other dramatic works from myriad cultures completely unfamiliar to our experience but accessible through literature. Oscar Wilde's widely acclaimed and criticized work is no exception.

Wilde lays out all his themes in the first pages, a carefully crafted Preface: the contradictory nature of intellectual endeavor, the search for the definition of art, appreciation of beauty, exploration of vice and virtue, the cult of celebrity (rampant in the late Victorian age, as now), ethics, class, power, wealth, wealth and power, charm and power, responsibility, influence, ideas (books in particular). And the importance of ... a soul. His setting is Victorian England, Europe, and beyond.

Early in the novel, Dorian Gray cries out to whomever will hear and his two closest friends, Lord Henry and the painter Basil, "If it were I who was always to be young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that - for that - I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give for that! I would give my soul for that!" (p.26)

Seven pages from the end of the novel (p.186 of 193), Wilde brings it all around. There isn't a lot of talk about the soul in the pages in between. There's a lot of talk about "spectators" (who are soul-less in their way) and mirrors. Perfection. Reflection. The dangers of a bored, powerful upper class. Society. Friendship. Theater. The Victorian ancestral inheritance of decadence and debauchery from all of Western civilization and beyond. But really, that's just the interesting stuff that happens in between, with or without a soul. The arc of the story is propelled by Dorian Gray's impetuous bargain, and seven pages from the end of his story, Lord Henry brings us - and Dorian - back to the point. Claiming somewhat dubiously to simply be repeating a chance street preacher, Lord Henry asks Dorian out of the blue, "'What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose' - how does the quotation run? 'his own soul?'" Lord Henry acknowledges, "I asked you because I thought you might be able to give me an answer."

What a classic theme. Of course, you'll have to read the book to get Wilde's full picture. Safe to say, the conditions of life, the environment inhabited by, shall we say, the 1%, is a place that in Oscar Wilde's day bored, tempted, educated, and ignored its inhabitants just enough to make such an experiment as Dorian Gray's possible, with widely devastating spiritual consequences to all who came into contact with his soul-less existence.

RIP Dorian Gray. May we learn from your choices, and hope to learn from our own.