A Hermit Thrush

The body of the Hermit Thrush lying there
On my steps when I went for the paper
Gave a moment’s sadness, replaced instantly
By an appreciation of holding
The lovely bird in my hand
For close inspection.
Surprise  December 21st 2011

This morning’s astonishment was a bird’s nest.
There it was, revealed when the last leaves
Dropped from the flowering plum.
Only two feet from the window,
Yet the busy coming and going ot the parents
And the excitement of fledglings
Escaped notice. How many were there?
And who were they? It was an untidy nest,
But there are no clues to help.

SOUVENIR (September, 2013)

After a return to Arizona’s Oak Creek
They sent me a souvenir of a cherished place:
A list of birds seen on this visit.
I treasure this scrap of paper.
My birding now, sight diminished,
Must be by ear or memory. They saw
Three hummingbird cousins- Allen's , Anna’s and Rufus,
White-breasted Nuthatch, Orchard Oriole,
Downy Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird,
Black-headed Grosbeak, Summer Tanager,
Cardinal (plumage still juvenile) and a Black-hawk;
To my ear the names are music and this paper bit
Balances the twelve pound Baby Elephant Folio of
Audubon’s Birds of America they gave me years ago.
Our last visit to Oak Creek was as memorable,
And Chizuko saw a Painted Bunting. a bird I have never seen.
This brings a flood of memories.
Home (16 Jun 2013)

I would not have thought of it
But on first hearing her say it
The charm of deep satisfaction it revealed,
Her warmth, and ownership
Made it both unforgettable and
A ritual to be honored.
The words were "Hello, House,"
Spoken as she crossed the threshold
After our first trip to Scotland.
I can never quite say it as she did.

We had been in our place nine years.
Modifications and maintenance
Had made it increasingly ours.
It was how I felt, but we had not mentioned
Our feelings of attachment.

The structure was altered.
We had rearranged closets
Before we moved in, then later
Put a skylight in the bath,
The tubular skylights in dark paces.
We closed one window in the north wall.
And shoji replaced drapes.
When she earned her Tea-Teacher diploma.
Removed the Monterey Pine
When its roots broke the patio concrete,
Adding a deck - reluctantly,
The tree had been one of the treasures.
Truly it became our house.

Memory (5 June 2013)

A week after our very quiet wedding,
On my first visit to Glendale to meet them,
We were at my wife’s parent’s home.
At breakfast, there it was "the marmalade."
It was Kumquat! they told me, not quite understanding
My enthusiasm, until I explained.
I was young, not yet seven. Early one day
Mother and I were at the MacAllaster Grandmother's
Kitchen table. Her gray hair a bit untidy,
(Odd, the details one remembers)
Still in nightgown and bathrobe,
I believe it was the last time I saw her alive.
She offered us toast with a marmalade
Just come from a daughter in California.
The flavor was very, very special. I did not
Experience it again for forty years.
I did not actively search for it, nor
Did I at that age know that I had the question.
There was a vague something unanswered.
Every marmalade was a bit of a disappointment.
What a moment it was all these years later,
And then I remembered, it was at Glendale
The aunt I had never known, had died.
Poetry’s Uses (25 April 2013)

Ten days gave gloom’s gathering a numbing
Chance to fester, and left unfinished or untouched
Many a task, each adding its bit to the funk.
Until last night on settling into bed
The first line of a sonnet, remembered,
Brought me up short: "When in disgrace with fortune --"
And that made all the difference, I could drift smiling into sleep.
Today I woke refreshed and ready to work again.

DECORATION DAY (27 May 2013)

When I was about ten, and for years afterward
Decoration Day was one of two high points of our year.
My father’s mother had been with us
Since Thanksgiving, and would move
To her other son’s family for six months.
The two families met at the service
Sponsred by the Grand Army of the Republic,
The "American Legion" of the War Between the States.
My mother’s aunt lived with us year-round.
Each of the women remembered older brothers
Leaving to serve in Michigan regiments.
Both men came home safely. Each was a kind of presence
When the surviving fragment of Fife and Drum Corps arrived.
The tune was the Chopin Funeral March.
The service over, they marched off to a quick step
The Girl I left Behind Me. The two families had a picnic.
On one occasion Grandmother said
"When I was a girl, the old soldiers were from our Revolution."
Today I realize that I am one of the "old soldiers"
What a young country ours is. Three lives its span.
February’s End 27 Feb 2013

Washington’s Birthday
And I hesitate to tell folks facing blizzards
How blossoms flourish here
On the Plum we brought from Glendale forty years ago.
Or that under it
Bulbs a Grandmother scattered then
Are sending up shoots already.
While in back a Quince blooms,
Daffodils dance,
And Iris flaunt their white and purple flags.

BEDAZZLED 12 Jan 2013

In Friends Meeting,
Referencing the beauty around him
A Friend spoke of being bedazzled.
It provoked another to break tradition
Weeks later.
He referred to that word.
He rejected.it,
It annoyed him,
Reverberating for days
Like a radio jingle.
Reflecting now, many things bedazzled him:
A grandchild’s warmth,
A Crow gliding to a perch,
An unexpected reversal of an illness,
A friend’s greeting, a stranger’s smile.
"Land Sakes!" 9 Jun 2012

In a waiting room two busy clerks,
No longer young,
Behind their barrier,
Chatted companionably.
Bits of talk tumbled out.
Idiom—words I had not heard
From living lips in decades
"Land Sakes!" one exclaimed. Later
The other mused: "I declare!" Not eavedropping
I hoped for one to say "Pshaw!"

Genealogy observation 28 Apr 2012

(date of birth) — (date of death)
the dash
is how we live our lives
The Days Before Labor Day

The two days before Labor Day
For Scots in our area, and
For Scots, too, in a much wider range,
Across Canada and up and down the Coast
And as far away as Utah and Colorado,
Means a Gathering for Highland Games.
For competition in dance and music
As well as throwing the hammer, the javelin, and
Tossing the caber, and maddest of all,
Throwing the weight for height - a danger
For an unwary athlete it might
Crash on his head. I should include "her head"
Since the ladies try their hands in recent years
In all these events.
This started with dance. Years ago.
The Sword Dance nd the Highland Fling
Encouraged fitness and agility
In the ranks of the military,
As was the Hornpipe among seamen.
The kilt, in those days, was male apparel.
Women danced, but in a dress.
Competitive Highland dancing now
Rarely bosts a male dancer but the art
Thrives in the kilted regiments.

This year, six hundred pipers and drummers,
Massed bands at the closing ceremonies,
Playing together. Can you imagine?
The glorious noise they made marching off to
We’re no awa’ to bide awa


By the kitchen window
At my solitary breakfast—
Solitary does not mean lonely—
The little parade came, as on many mornings.
Led by the stately antlered father, alert, cautious,
Picking his way up the center of the street.
Then the doe, some distance back,
Hesitant, casting glances back
To their twin fauns. Where do they sleep?
Probably in the several wooded, hillside nooks
Deemed unbuildable, if urban.
They all scamper to the sidewalk
As they see an auto approach.
Deer are not our only neighbors,
Resident here long before us,
A fierce backyard ‘Possum once,
Terrorized Wee Gillis, our Cairn Terrier.
A family of Raccoons peeked in at
Our son’s window as he studied.
Squirrels, of course, and bird life
Abundantly charmed us.
An October morning can be lovely.
They Walked, said the National Geographic 10/5/2012

The July issue
Told a startling tale.
For the first time in many years
I was overcome with the wish
To tell my father something,
Easter Island’s heads
Had fascinated him,
A farm boy in North Dakota.
The strange shape and enigmatic
Unexplained presence
At such a desolate remote place.
Now the National Geographic
Very graphically shows what
Inhabitants have said all along.
Writers rejected this for years
But had nothing but puzzlement
To offer, until now.
Why or who remain questions.
But uneven, rounded bottoms
And long ropes now we begin
At last, to understand, they walked.
How he would have loved it.

From Aphasia to Apiary 10/7/2012

When I mentioned to a friend who keeps bees
That I had a condition called Aphasia
Which meant that occasionally
My cerebral search engine
Would fail to find the word I wanted
So I would have to find an approximation
To serve until the precise word flashed up.
To this he replied, "Here we were giving you
Special respect- thoughtful, careful, perhaps even profound,
And all the time you had a condition?"
Here I sit at my "dancing light mail box"
That is a substitution for "computer",
(Not mine, I quote from a radio interview)
But a beautiful example. Now, how did apiary
Get into this consideration,? Because I remembered
A story about bees. Careful observers
Studying the life of the hive, noted some bees
Just stood around aimlessly pretending to fly.
It was not until humans began to air-condiion
Their hives did we understand the function
Those tiny fans had in the hive.
Similarly. I would not have named the effort in the brain
A search-engne, but for the wonders of the present age.
Dear Reverend Morris 4/3/2012

The following remembers Charles and Diane Weidner.
Chuck was on the Fellowship Board 1958-5 (as I was)
when we voted to become Mt Diablo Unitarian Church,
That permitted Howard Diller to call a minister and
Aaron Gilmartin to be the first minister. Our daughters
met at LRY one Sunday night. (Willowdale was the name
my paternal grandfather gave his homestead in Wells
County, North Dakota in 1880,)


for Diane, Chuck, Susan, Janet, and Linda
------2009-----2009 -------------2011---------------
Not a musician, today, if I were a piper
I’d stand on a knoll looking over the blue Pacific,
Say at Montara, or Asilomar or Pismo.
Thinking of Hawaii, I’d pipe a long, sad tune.
Jan was the last I heard from. She invited me
To start a virtual farm in an electronic game:
She sent me six virtual sheep to begin stocking
My Willowdale. I was too busy and did not respond.
Her parents had been our friends at college,
They retired in Maui.
(Chuck could remember those sub-zero mornings,
Crossing the Minnesota campus
Diane’s ungloved hand and his, clasped,
Tuck’d into his down jacket pocket, oblivious of the cold.)
The family turned up aurprise neighbors
In California after the war, each
With three daughters and closely of an age.
Susan, Janet and Barbara met Susan, Janet and Linda
And thus the families re-established intimacy.
We kept in touch over the years.
Jan was with her parents, in Maui as each died.
She called me when she was in town but she was rushed,
We did not meet, but e-mail was frequent.
In Oregon on visit not far from Wolf Creek
Her phone disconnected.
Then the bare date of her death was found.
It was soon after she had started her virtual farm,
And thought of me; questions remain unanswered.

On a road trip visit to my birthplace,
With a bit of leisure on our hands
We drove past the four places
My parents rented from my first grade
Through my first college year.
The houses were still substantial
Well kept-up bourgeois structures,
Little changed. Only the Catalpa tree,
At that last place-- now enormous.
Our real destination was a wild area,
A place I remember as enchanted,
But could it last these seventy years?
Six seventh grade boys went there, first
To complete an assignment. Afterward,
We were there most Saturday mornings
Because we loved what we found.
Along a Cemetery’s southern extremity
A wild strip of woods, meadow, swamp
And creek, abounding in bird life,
Separated a bridle path, from lawns and
Manicured gardens of Lake Harriet.
We often encountered a friendly adult;
He greeted us cordially,
"What have you seen, lads?" or
Perhaps "Look among the firs, I saw
Evening Grosbeaks."
We boys did not know his name.
Now, as we approached the path’s entrance
It was dismaying to see it closed,
Blocked by well-groomed shrubs.
Turning the next corner, all was well:
The Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird
Samctuary was announced.

May Day 2012

The apple tree, a Golden Delicious,
Burst into bloom yesterday and is full,
Today, of promise.
It joins the lilac and the profusion
Of poppies, red and golden.
Greek and California in abundant beauty.
Particularly the red poppies mark this day.

It was very late that Halloween—
In our enclave of Foothill Park
The twenty families were alike
But also different. The men
Had served, married after the war,
And were beginning careers and
Getting children. We had come
From dissimilar places.

At my door were two neighbors,
Paper cups in hand, grinning.
"Trick or Treat!" they said.
I asked them in and poured
Two fingers of Glenmorangie
For each of us, asking them
To be comfortable. They were,
After pleasantries, suddenly serious.
"There is a plan being put in shape".
They said, *to build a Bomb Shelter."
They explained in detail. Much thought,
Much care had been invested.
A Women’s Committee was leading,
Explaining why I, a single father,
Had heard nothing.

As they went on, I was silent.
The five families with homes inside
The circle had dedicated land
Where their lots met in its center.
Each household would have a room.
At each end an entrance
Providing toilets and showers,
To wash of the fall-out.
Common cooking and dining
Are in the plan. Of course, expense
Is to be shared. And of course,
I would be expected to do my share.

When my turn came, I declined,
Acknowledging that mothers might
Instinctively want to do "something."
But I believed this should be a plan
Never to be more than talk.
The men were astonished.
"Your children will be turned away
If in time of trouble, they come to the door!"

Now comes the scary part.
Next morning tacked to our door
A sign announced
"The Communists of the Circle
Live here."


Now I would respond this way,
I wish I had been prepared
This morning as two slender young men in dark suits
Knocked at my door. I knew their business
Instantly and said "Thanks —but no thanks."
Friendly enough but it was not satisfying.
In reflection, I remembered several things.
The day the man from the Stake across the street
Came to Meeting to express his thanks
For our community efforts with them.
Second, my sense of gratitude for Mormon
Family history work and generosity about it.
Most important, though, would be to tell them
How teachers at Honeyville Elementary School
Welcomed Japanese children come to Utah
When driven from California in forty-two.
Chizuko never forgot
"We understand," they said,
"We, too, were driven from our homes."
Friends and Mormons do share values of kindness,

Don and Frank
Don Sanford and Frank McAlister, Berkeley, October 2013