Some Mondays are better left wordless. Let your mind wander. Click on the photos that inspire you to see a larger version.
All photos by KCMickelson.
It was one of those weekends in which multiple things collided: Mother’ Day. Granddaughter’s birthday. Daughter’s graduation. Family and friends coming together. The realization that time is both fierce in its forward progression and the greatest teacher of all.
The thing about all these events is that the people who matter the most were here. We began the weekend on Friday night with a birthday party for the littlest family member, Camille, who turned 6. Pizza and cake and soda, a warm night, and a tree-filled St. Paul park next to the Mississippi River set the stage. Saturday was the family party with sausages on the grill perfectly cooked by my brother-in-law. Everything was low-key and unfancy as we celebrated Abby’s graduation, hung out outside, shared ice cream floats scooped up by my friend Luann, and caught up with each other. Sunday was the big graduation ceremony at Mariucci Arena on the Minneapolis Campus of the University of Minnesota. This ceremony was only one of several that ushered in new graduates and there were still about 1100 students at this one. We ended the evening at my son Shawn’s choice of pub in Hopkins, just our immediate family around the table to share the last meal of the weekend. Camille was quiet and exhausted but still with us.
As I think about all these important things that happened and what they mean to us, I feel a little choked up. And we’re not quite done yet – we’ll celebrate my daughter-in-law Beka’s completion of her Master’s Degree next weekend at Hamline University. I’m grateful we have a little breather between the two graduations so we can pay her the attention she deserves.
And I’m ready for summer. Ready to shift into an easier routine, stop wearing socks, work with the windows open.
But I’m still going to celebrate all these important people in my life every chance I get.
It’s once again that time of year when sitting in front of my computer is excruciating. There is so much going on outside and it smells so much better out there than indoor air ever could (except when there’s some good cooking going on). My feet are restless, legs twitchy, attention scattered. This month’s weekends are devoted to being outside, digging in the dirt and planting and planning.
Especially planning. Not just the garden, but life. Our daughter is graduating from college (college!!) on May 14. She’s already been accepted into graduate school to continue her studies in the human resources field. Our son is starting graduate school to pursue his love of making art combined with his aptitude for teaching it. Our granddaughter is turning six and finishing up kindergarten. Our daughter-in-law has just finished a master’s degree in education.
All this accomplishment, this movement swirling around us makes me both proud of my family and so, so wistful. As I dig in our garden, clutch dirt between my fingers, I think about what kind of life I’ve grown for myself, what seeds have taken off. There is poetry, of course, and the opportunities I’ve taken to send out my own and publish that of others. There are collaborations, past and present, with other writers and artists. There is this family that I’ve been part of, children I’ve helped raise, dreams I’ve helped nurture, dreams yet to come to light.
And yet there is a sadness that time is careening along at such a rapid clip. It’s like being on a high-speed train, scenery racing by beyond the window, outlines of everything blurred. Sometimes, I can slow it all down by going outside and moving around in the garden, on a hiking trail, anywhere where there is no cell service. My restless feet are not restless for the desire to hurry up; they are restless for experience that is sharply in focus, experience into which I can simply sink.
May is for waking up to the newness that is still out there for all of us: the next job, the next bit of school, the next project. That, unlike our bodies, never gets old.
images courtesy of Pixabay.com
Yesterday, I dug in the dirt. Warm April weather, sunshine, a Sunday in which there were no obligations – a perfect day to be outside, dirt yielding to spade, shovel, weed puller. I dug allium out of one of our gardens, its tangled roots an iron-clad mat that pushed back. But I am as stubborn as those roots. The allium eventually loosened its grasp, naked roots tossed in a pile later relocated to the yard waste bin.
Those strong roots, the way I cut them off, yanked them from their home, made me think of a list of other things: the strong women in my family who don’t let go of things, how people tear up the earth, refugees pulled and pushed from their homeland, the tenacity of life that does not want to leave the place that nurtures it. Transplanting is hard; eradication is cruel. Fear gets embedded in roots, insidious and perverse, a parasite that loves the soft, dark dirt.
I moved to the stonecrop, also overgrown. Its roots weren’t as tough as the allium; it gave up its spot as if to say, yes, we know – just thought we’d give it a shot. Two such different plants taking over the same area of the garden, side-by-side.
On Saturday, Mick and I and a few friends honored Earth Day by attending the March for Science in St. Paul. Ten thousand people were there, signs waving, lab coats flapping, heads covered with crocheted hats that looked like brains. The mood was fairly peaceful, with many older people and jubilant kids happy to be outside. These marchers included a lot of quiet, thoughtful people who wanted everyone to understand how science has contributed to all aspects of our lives. Pick anything and there is some scientific contribution behind it: the comfortable clothes we wear, the safe food we eat, the music we listen to on our iPods, the coffeemaker that gives us our morning elixir, the cars that get us to work or take us to the doctor, the bikes we pedal, the bus passes we swipe to pay for our rides, the very fact that we’ve survived childhood.
Everything I know about gardening comes from science. As I dug in the dirt yesterday, I also thought more about the march and what it stood for. I thought about the fears some have around scientific progress even though they know they’ve benefitted from past progress. Change is hard, even if it helps society. But fear is the hardest thing of all to eradicate.
And why is that such a powerful human trait – fear of change? I can understand caution, the value of getting all the facts before making change. But once something has shown its benefits, been proven to offer something good – like vaccinations, clean water, clean air, proper nutrition – how can we fail to support those changes? How can we ignore the fact that laws and government policies affect science and research and, in turn, our own well-being?
Pulling invasive plants from garden soil is therapeutic. Getting my hands dirty, plunging them into the earth while trying not to hurt the spiders who scurry out of the way or the earth worms who wriggle in the moist clumps of soil, is a form of prayer. This bit of ground under my care will not lie to me: it will shift with the seasons, offer bounty when well-tended and soothe my heart in return.
It is the map for everything.
All photos by KCMickelson 2017
I don’t mind that spring has fits and starts here. Last week, it looked like this around here:
And today there is this:
And over the weekend, there was this:
Yes, Minnesota is a land of unpredictability and that is one of the things I love about living here. Back in March, we had our first tornado warnings and a week later I drove through a snowstorm. This back-and-forth between cold weather and warm weather, snow and rain, keeps me from becoming too complacent, too comfortable.
Just like life in general. Don’t get too comfortable. Be ready for change at any moment.
Happy Monday! What’s new in your neighborhood?
All photos by kcmickelson 2017.
Boys blowing shit up. That phrase has been running through my head since last Thursday. It perfectly captures the way the world looks to me right now. I keep thinking of little boys so fascinated by explosives that they fail to see the consequences of their actions; they’re in it for the thrill, the power. Other kids get in the way? Too bad for them. And girls? Not allowed in. Mostly.
I have images of Trump, Putin, and Assad standing on the playground, hands filled with big exploding rocks. Kim Jong-un is off to the side somewhere, stomping his feet because they won’t let him play. And then there are the masses of other boys, who hate the guys who think they’re in charge and will do whatever it takes to knock them out. A few girls are trying to talk above the playground noise, but their words sail away on the wind.
And I’m losing my patience. I just want to send them all to their rooms until they calm down. I want them all to remember we share this planet.
Nice tidy ending? Don’t have one.
image courtesy of Pixabay.com
April is a glorious month, not a cruel one. First of all, today is my wedding anniversary; Mick and I have been married for 24 years. Wow! That looks much longer when I see it in print than it feels. We are both taking the day off to simply be together. Not bad for a Monday, huh?
But that’s not the only anniversary to celebrate around here. April 1 marked the second anniversary of working with my friend and fellow poet Constance Brewer to bring you our poetry journal, Gyroscope Review, and the release of the Spring 2017 issue, which is available in print as well as in digital form:
To purchase a print copy for $8 plus shipping, click HERE.
If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can purchase this for $8 with no shipping fees HERE.
If you are in the UK, you can find this on Amazon.uk HERE.
If you want to read the PDF on your device, it is free HERE.
And you know what else? April brings us National Poetry Month, so what better time to check out not only Gyroscope Review, but consider the broad assortment of work out there that might lodge itself in your heart. Poets.org offers a pdf of the poster for National Poetry Month 2017 with links to assorted poetry HERE. Click on any of the images on the poster and you’ll be sent to a different poem for each image.
And here’s one of my favorite pieces that talks about why poetry makes any difference in the world: Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames] by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Happy Monday! Happy April!
Squirrel photo by KCMickelson 2017.
It was 3-something a.m. this morning. I decided to get up after my sleepy husband answered my tossing, turning, and arm-flailing with a muttered, “Something tells me you’re awake.” So, wrapped in a blanket from our couch, a mug of tea on the end table, I flipped through cable channels. I watched an old episode of Cheers, thought, god, Sam Malone is a big fat sexist twit; why did I ever think that show was funny? Flipped to news. Knew that wasn’t going to be very soothing. Decided, somewhere after 4 a.m., to write this morning’s blog.
What to people think about at 4-something a.m.? Every single thing that ever happened to them, along with random thoughts that rise to the surface and pop like bubbles in boiling water:
This past weekend’s trip to Milwaukee to accompany a friend on a visit to her parents.
The road trip when I was four in which my dad ran over a rattlesnake, then stopped to take its rattlers.
The way the rattlers sat on a shelf in my parents’ living room.
The black English breakfast tea in the mug on my left.
Whether anyone else on our block is awake yet.
What our hotel room will look like when we visit Dublin this summer.
If the whole fake news thing is going to utterly destroy this country.
Why people think lying is going to advance anything. Ever.
How I now know our Xfinity cable box reboots automatically at 4:45 a.m. every day.
How much I like writing with pencils.
How cold the house is in the middle of the night.
How much I miss my dad.
How writing stream of consciousness ends up not sounding at all like Jack Kerouac but does sound like the deepest part of me.
And so this early start to my day feels like a brain clean rather than an annoyance. My friend Luann has talked about her family’s philosophy of changing their environment when one of them can’t sleep. That is how they get back to sleep. I changed mine and realized I was supposed to be awake this morning. Awake and letting these words out. Awake and thinking about all that this day will offer, even though its first light is not yet a glimmer on the horizon.
Today, I’ll get to watch the sunrise. Happy Monday, everyone.
When I got home yesterday afternoon, after spending the weekend in Milwaukee, I found the best piece of mail waiting for me:
This is the first-ever print edition of Gyroscope Review, the quarterly poetry journal I co-edit with friend and fellow poet Constance Brewer. We are so excited about finally being able to offer a print option to our readers after two years of being strictly a digital journal.
If you are someone who prefers to hold poetry in your hands rather than have it scroll across the screen of one of your devices, then perhaps this is for you. Our winter issue is available on Amazon here for $8 plus shipping.
Watch for another update soon when our spring issue is available.
I could feel it this morning, the arrival of spring, with the warmth in the air, the sounds of the birds, the sunrise that streaked red and pink across the sky. Even with a mild winter like the one we’ve just had, the spring equinox feels like a definite change in the weather.
On Saturday, my partner Mick and I celebrated spring’s arrival at our favorite Afghani restaurant, Khyber Pass Cafe, in St. Paul. The restaurant had a special Persian menu for the occasion. We began with kadu borani, a braised butternut squash dish topped with yogurt. That was followed by kabuli pilau, chicken chunks nestled beneath warmly-spiced basmati rice and topped with raisins and julienned carrots. Dessert was a traditional dish of fruits and nuts in syrup, a dish not normally on the menu and for which I cannot remember the name. A bottle of wine accompanied the meal (a nice tempranillo) and we were treated to some traditional live Persian music. It was one of the best meals I’ve had recently, and the owners of the restaurant were the epitome of graciousness to an absolutely packed place. We noticed a lot of our fellow diners also feasted on the special menu in honor of spring. One of the owners, Emel Sherzad, stopped by our table a few times to ask how we were doing and, like other visits to this restaurant, we were struck by his kindness when he spoke to us. This is not a man who asks how your are because it’s expected; he asks because he really cares and the people who come to his restaurant can feel that.
This is a place where wonderful food and joy and generosity mingle.
When we finished our meal, we slowly walked back to our car in the warmish evening. Next door to the Kyber Pass Cafe is Dunn Bros Coffee. On the bench outside there was a guy with a sweet female Bernese mountain dog who wanted nothing more than to be petted by everyone who walked by. And so we stopped, scratched her ears, looked into her big brown eyes, listened to her owner talk about how many puppies she’s had and how she is a great mom. The guy was so happy sitting there with his dog and a cup of coffee; we were so happy to stop and talk.
Spring brings that out in people around here.
And so I wish you happy spring. May you get to celebrate with new foods, have conversations with people you don’t know, see how much joy there could be in a world where people are kind no matter who comes across their path. It’ll make hugging the people you love just that much better, too.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
Nearly 3:00 p.m. and I’m just sitting down to tackle today’s blog post. I spent many hours on the road this weekend to visit a friend in Madison and family in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Mick and I left with son Shawn and daughter Abby – neither of whom live at home anymore, so this was a pretty special road trip – early Saturday morning and came back late last night on snowy, slippery roads amidst swirling snowflakes. We had to laugh at how the earlier part of this winter has been unusually warm and that we had tornadoes in Minnesota just a week ago, so of course the snowstorm would happen the one weekend we all drove out of town. But them’s the breaks, as they say.
Today I got to spend more time in my car to pick up our dog from the boarding kennel about 30 miles away and then run other mundane but essential errands. But the sun is shining, the new snow is clean and sparkly, and there was nothing to be in a crabby Monday mood about.
As I drove around what seemed like ALL the freeways in the metro area today, I noticed that the illuminated traffic signs that typically warn of crashes or lane closures all said something else entirely: “Kiss me. I’m sober.” It took me a few seconds to realize that Minnesota law enforcement is preparing for St. Patrick’s Day this Friday. (The signs should have been green, come to think of it.) And I wondered how many people would see those signs and then remember them come Friday when they hoist a Harp or a Guinness or a shot of Jameson in honor of all things Irish. I’ll be hoisting something but from the comfort of my own living room for the simple fact that I like a slightly quieter St. Patrick’s Day than I used to, one in which no beer gets spilled on me. No worries about cars weaving around near me.
It is serious stuff, though. Imbibing is fun, a lot of us like it, and it’s a huge part of our culture. But that split second traffic mistake is unimaginably expensive if there is alcohol involved. On our way home last night, none of us had any alcohol because that would have been an incredibly stupid choice for a five-hour drive on snowy and dark roads. We like our lives too much. And we saw a lot of cars off the sides of the interstate because of the slick roads; how many of those people were unlucky versus inebriated? Who knows? But I would guess that there were at least a few who would have stayed on the road if they had chosen soda over beer.
In the bright light of a sunny day that illuminates fresh snow, those “Kiss me. I’m sober.” signs are so logical. Of course, one might think, I won’t make that mistake.
Until they do.
Have a safe St. Patrick’s Day. Imbibe responsibly – eat some corned beef and cabbage with that Guinness!
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com