On Siblings Poster

Dear Readers and Listeners–

Many of you have asked about my posts and have wondered what I’ve  been up to these days–

The answer is I am happy, healthy and engaged in creative activity, and thinking of you more often than you know.

One of my principal projects is my memoir-in-progress, Family Landscape. I was proud to be invited to participate in Writers Read, an exciting venture in Manhattan wherein writers read short theme-based pieces for a live audience (a kissing cousin to The Art Garden) The pieces are taped and then posted online.

The most recent theme was Siblings, and if you click on the link below, you will hear me read a first slice from Family Landscape.

 http://www.writersreadonline.com/?page_id=2093

You will also hear other remarkable writers and their brief essays on Siblings, by turns humorous, heart-wrenching and haunting.

Will I post again regularly? Too soon to tell–maybe synchopatedly.  Know that I do miss you, at my elbow, walking through the fields, through summer’s multiple intoxications, myriad as milkweed florets and their drunken pollinators who hum, chip and skitch above the distant whine of rubber meeting road. I miss you whispering which photograph to take, what is meaningful this week, what wants amplifying, magnifying.

A life of magnified meaning. Know I seek and find this,  whether you hear from me or not. And I hope you are doing the same.

 

 

 

More Reading aloud:

Tomorrow night I am glad to be reading new poetry as part of the marvelous annual Calling All Poets marathon in Beacon, NY. I’m on around 8pm. It would be great to see you!

MARATHON 2015 outlined-2

 

 

 

 

 

Pennsylvania SkyPennSky, unretouched photo & all text ©Irene O’Garden 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Demitterre Diem

The other night I suffered a thigh cramp. A real howler–when muscles gang up on each other and each, in defense, grips all the harder.

Sucking deep breaths, can’t answer awakened, anxious husband. Bending, leaning, rotating. Coaxing, begging the leg, which snarls and defies like a mad dog.

Isn’t this over yet? Stop. Stop. And it won’t.

In spite of the eternity pain stages, it doesn’t last forever. Eventually our flailing finds alignment.  Try good leg. Foot ankle thigh take weight. Shift to ailing limb. Acceptance! It is relieved by the weight, glad of normalcy and, in its sheepish canine way, apologizes for its lapse of muscular sanity. 

I’d vigorously exercised these muscles earlier.  Shouldn’t they be tired and want to sleep? Yet, as body will, they’d been mirroring my frame of mind.

For I’d been pumping my muscle of accomplishment just as vigorously. So much to do, to see, to create: Christmas cards, gifts, errands, visits with friends and family, making house sitter arrangements, having contractor meetings–all clamored to be done. (We’re having substantial renovations in the next several weeks and are traveling while the workers sling their power tools.)

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) is the very motto of our age, and has inspired me plenty. But, our thighs remind, if we seize non-stop, we seize up.

So here’s my little corollary:

demmitere

 

(Let Go The Day)

 

Returning to a daily taste of yoga helps me do same. As does looking at an retouched sky like the one above. After all, the vigorous and mighty sun does it every night.  With style.

 

 

***Please Note: After more than two and a half-years of weekly posts, I’m taking my first real hiatus. I anticipate being back in the Wednesday saddle in late January, but will rely completely on my intuition for the timing. Have marvelous holidays!***

 

Publication News: People who are wondering how to buy a copy of the gloriously photographed “Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands” (which contains my essay on the arts)  can click here. If you’re in the area, the book is also available at Boscobel’s Gift Store (Garrison), the Garrison Café (Garrison), Storm King Adventure Tours (Cornwall-on-Hudson), Hudson Highlands Nature Museum (Cornwall) Jones Farm (Cornwall) and at the Putnam History Museum (Cold Spring)

 

 

ShaddieShaddie, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

Long talks with family, friends and colleagues; many classes full of eager and rambunctious third-grade poets—my purse of words is all but spent this week, and I have scarce enough to caption shadows.

And yet I have enough.

Join me for a short spontaneous woods-walk I took awhile back. My shadow spotted a single rock near the path, prompting hijinks of her own. Third-graders might approve.   

Forward Pass

 

Forward Pass.

Balance

Highlands Globetrotter.

Moon Birth

Moon Birth.

Handupon

Handupon.

Publication News: A brief reminder that the book signing/release party for  Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of the Hudson Highlands happens tomorrow, Thursday November 20, from 6-8 at Winter Hill in Garrison, NY. My essay on the arts appears within. Hope you can make it!

Uncle Johnny's FlagUncle Johnny’s Flag, photo & all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2014 

I remember so many people with special love on Veteran’s Day: my father Don, my father-in-law Len, my brother Dan, Uncle Johnny and the countless others who offered the gift of their service. Today I want to introduce you to Eleanor, mother of Scott (my most long-playing friend) and his beloved sister Andee. Over the years, I was privileged to spend time with the remarkable Eleanor, enjoying her joyful fashion sense, eating her beautifully prepared food and witnessing firsthand her powerful love. Her stunning military funeral inspired the following poem.

(It is cast in a form I created a few years back: the “fulcrum poem,” in which meaning twists on repeated phrases. Since the ear loves repetition but the eye does not, I have placed the fulcrums in superscript. These words should be read twice.  If you like puzzles, read the poem. If you’d rather listen, please click here: Sergeant Eleanor

 

 

SERGEANT ELEANOR IS LAID TO REST

In Which a Bird Appears.

 

Sergeant Eleanor is laid to rest

in fields of blooming yellow mustard eggs

in silver buckets later at the salad bar thoughts

of army women in the service Sergeant

Eleanor was happy. Fought for freedom

and was happy giving and receiving orders

of nuns almost army women in the forties served

a god-shaped army in peacetime

couldn’t use this soldier on did

 

Sergeant Eleanor: husband, baby. Twice.

Third man no better. No matter.

A daughter. A son. Lives to guard, honor

Sergeant Eleanor, who fought for freedom

when divorce drew fierce artillery

of shame as well in purplehearted sacrifice

of factory work of loneliness like flaying

bayonets stripped from barrels by the honor guard

at her grave  looks on the veterans; warring

 

Sergeant Eleanor wore costume jewelry,

turquoise and magenta, fought on vodka,

cigarettes, bedtime stories, in combat

with doctors, bankers, teachers.

For these kids. That clear? Motherhood:

a hundred thousand acts of bravery.

And a helluva lemon meringue.

 

Sergeant Eleanor made herself goddam heard.

Three shots shock like broken eggs’ shells fly

from soldiers’ rifles lay a soldier

in the grave salute flag folded wings

 

 

Sergeant Eleanor’s daughter and son

open the car at the crossroads of dust shrieks

from a rust-ringed feathered throat

Kildeer at the right front tire,

fatherless her dusty nest a gravel patch.

Two speckled eggs warm with life.

 

 

 

 

Publication News: I am pleased to announce that an essay of mine appears in the Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of The Hudson Highlands, a glorious, freshly-published, coffee-table-worthy book of sumptuous photographs and essays. (I was asked to write about the arts here.) There is a celebration and book-signing at Winter Hill on Thursday, November 20, from 6:00-8:00 pm. I’d be so happy to see you there.

Speed

SpeedingLight, photo & all text ©Irene O’Garden, 2014

I get as speedy as anyone, but when I found this thought in an old notebook this week, it slowed me into a long morning of design.

Notwithstanding my recent post on retouching, I thought you might enjoy a little peek behind the curtain. Here’s the photograph on which it is based:

dark

I snapped this picture of our malfunctioning water-treatment unit to email the technician.

We all have to deal with maintenance, chores, errands. But taking our time– with a scribbled thought, a homely image, or the dailiest of tasks– is what sweetens our time.

Have a sweet week.

Publication News: I’m happy to say that in honor of Thanksgiving, Untreed Reads, is offering 30% off the price of my Pushcart Prize-winning essay, Glad To Be Human when you buy it from their website. Some people make reading it aloud part of their festivities and it’s a welcome gift .

gentle magenta1Bush Clover, photo & all text ©Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Startle Display

After a week away, I could hardly wait to get fresh flowers in the house again.

Michaelmas daisies are at it this time of year—starry blooms in fruity purples, chalky periwinkles— and this glorious shrub above (Lespedeza thunbergii Gibraltar, or Bush Clover) is at the height of her beauty. Her long stems are crowded with opulent, pea-like blossoms and if magenta can be gentle, she’s it.

I happily loaded my gathering basket, but ouch! Felt something sharp as I clipped her stems. Almost like thorns, I thought. How uncharacteristic of the pea family.

Indoors, I began arranging the stems in a vase. “Ow!” That really hurt! The heel of my hand went red and throbbing. I picked up a leaf.

Talk about startled.

Stung Startle Display, photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

Looks like an intergalactic visitor. I promptly googled it. I had been stung by a Saddleback Caterpillar. Who knew there even were stinging caterpillars?

If defense were the ultimate expression of power, Saddlebacks would rule–they are the most well-defended creature I’ve ever laid eyes on. Those multiple spiraling spines are not only sharp, but venomous, and can break off and lodge in the sting-ee. The spots that look like a big face are meant to scare aggressors. Boo! It’s called the startle display.

When you calm down, though, and look again, you see this fellow is essentially an armored slug, just trying to get his naked, vulnerable self from here to there. He grows up to be a spikeless, venom-free, furry brown moth.  

It was worth the sting and startle to behold this creature who reminds us fierce defense is but a passing stage in growth. 

 

Publication News:  

John thinks I saved his life last fall. I am pleased to say that “An Argument With Water,” wherein I describe the experience, has just been published in deComp magazine. You can read it here

If you are Chappaqua, NY on Saturday Sept 27, please stop by my table at the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. It’s a grand event, and I will be gussied up as Mother Nature once again– 

 

 

Jim&DomJim & Dom, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: Swordfight with a Horse

While all my posts won’t be about my recent wilderness trip,  I do want to share the following—

In the campfire photo above, my younger brother Jim encourages the remarkable young Domenic Lewis to read us a story from “They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?” a collection of funny essays by sportsman Patrick McManus.

Nephew of my nephew Don, fourteen-year old Domenic is quite a sport himself, as you’ll see at Hour Ten of our eleven-hour horseback ride into the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The ride was the part of the trip I’d most grimly anticipated. Warnings had been issued: we’d likely ride all day with no break, we were bound to be saddle sore. Steep mountainside drop-offs can be scary– we might need to dismount and walk our horses. Saddlebags had to be light. I worried that my one measly bottle of water would not suffice for a whole day in the sun and you don’t want to be around a dehydrated, overheated Irene. Just mention noon on a sand dune to John.

As it happened, though, our guide gave us three breaks. Thanks to Don’s water filter, we drank our fill of cold, sparkling stream water. My preparatory stretches, padded bike shorts and chamois cream kept me pretty comfortable and we rode through immensely varied and beautiful terrain: dense moist forest, lyrical passages of wildflowers, a stunning field of creamy-plumed  beargrass. Shimmering lakes, a hefty wedge of glacier, vivid young pines reclaiming burnt land–it was a pleasure riding Sugar, my agreeable horse, over such scenic, well-maintained trails.  

But one spot during Hour Ten called for tough equestrian choreography. The horses had to make a short steep rocky ascent,  immediately and arrhythmically step over a large fallen tree and then instantly pivot into a sharp rocky descent. Most made it smoothly, but Domenic’s horse spooked, left the trail, and headed for a standing dead pine. One branch caught under the chin strap of Domenic’s river hat, tearing it off, but he kept his head, stayed in the saddle, grabbed his hat and managed to guide the horse back onto the trail. We proceeded.

Not long afterwards, he said, “I think I’m bleeding.” I was riding just ahead of him, and Don called, “See if he’s okay, will you, Irene?”

I turned in my saddle and froze. There, jutting three inches out of his left temple–“Domenic! You have a stick sticking out of your head!” Whereupon he screamed.

We halted. Don leapt down, helped Domenic dismount and carefully pulled out the sharp dart of white wood.  We were all shaken, no one more than Domenic, but when it appeared all would be well,  Jim patted him on the back. “Now you have a story.” A beautiful way, I thought, to mark such a moment in a young life.

I marked it later in my own way.  When we got to camp, I dug out my little sewing kit, and sewed the chinstrap back onto his hat. Finding a bit of red thread, I embroidered a tiny red star inside the brim, just at the spot of his injury.

By day’s end a smiling Domenic had come up with his take: “I was in a swordfight with a horse, and I lost.” Which, of course, he didn’t.

 

Publication News: While not publication as such, I supplied some narration for “Reel Herstory: The Real Story of Reel Women” a documentary on the remarkable history of female filmmakers, hosted by Jodie Foster. It’s a pleasure to see writer/filmmaker Ally Acker get well-deserved recognition on  FilmDoo, an international blog dedicated to indie and international film discovery. Look for it this fall at a film festival near you!

 

 

 

 

EphemeralEphemeral, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014 

 

Am deep into my large writing project–hence I offer you the little koan above, which  recently appeared in my notebook.

 

If you’d like more this week, I’m happy to say The Cookie Crumbles, a short piece of mine, was published just yesterday in Midway Journal–you can read it here:

Also, poet/travel writer Kristin Maaffei has posted an interview with me today on her blogsite, Not Intent On Arriving. Read it here and explore her world as well–

As always, thanks for keeping me writing!

 

 

RootDanceRootDance, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden 2014

 To listen to this post, please click here:Root Truth

Look closely. You can actually see my guilt woven into this nest of roots. It’s been so long since I last repotted my houseplants that a botanical welfare agency was bound to track me down, charge me with neglect and cart them all away.  I did consider giving them to someone more attentive, yet see how this orange clivia offered a blossom of patience and forgiveness, even as she sat atop this perfect root replica of her pot.

So with relief and pleasure, I set to it yesterday.

One gift of physical labor is the embodiment of metaphor. My thoughts from this pot were obvious—dwell on your roots too long, you run in circles and take up all your growing space.

But as I worked with various roots— hairy, lumpy, milky, airy—truth came up my hands.

We associate roots with the stagnant past, but they constantly seek the new—new water, new nourishment, new exchanges.  They are the probing present, which sustains the past. And the future as well.

Every July we think about our family and our nation’s roots. It’s good to remember they need repotting occasionally as well. After all, root is a verb.

Publication News:

Am very proud to say that some of my wedding signs are included in the Style Section of the NY Times this week!
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/fashion/weddings/a-relationship-where-marriage-is-freedom.html?ref=fashion&_r=0#

 

 

 

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou, iPad art and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Spirit Uncaged

I just wanted to look at Dr. Maya Angelou’s face awhile, so I drew her.  Those shining eyes. That impish mouth. That joy.

Glance at the breadth and depth of her creative explorations and you know she was woman after my own heart–memoirist, actress, singer, dancer, essayist, activist, producer, professor, poet. And though she bore a lifetime of scars, she was Dignity personified–a walking reminder to continually pull yourself up by your own bare feet even if you have no bootstraps.

Some years ago, I was privileged to hear her speak. The sound of her voice was like caramel, if it, like chocolate, came in bittersweet: a rich pour that seemed to flow from a vast ancient amphora of ancestral wisdom, prompting love, tolerance, forgiveness.

And I acutely appreciate her reflections on aging. I’ll direct you to the first twenty seconds of the Master Class she did for Oprah, though of course the entire event is well worth watching.

It’s hard to believe this mighty presence no longer dwells among us. But her spirit will continue to do so. It was uncaged decades ago.

 

A bit of  news:  I have mentioned here how pleased I am to have a poem in  A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley. I was just notified that the book has now received five prizes–get a first edition while you can!

A Slant Of Light

 1st Prize: 2014 USA Book Awards for Anthology

The 2014 da Vinci Eye Award for book cover artwork: part of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. (Amy Cheng is our cover artist.)

Finalist in the 2014 Beverly Hills International Book Awards for Anthology

Finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the category: Women’s Issues

Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards sponsored by The American Book Fest in the category: Chick Lit/Women’s Literature

 

 

 

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