TangleFlow: A Writer Wednesday Post

September 24th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (9 Comments)


TangleflowTangleFlow, photo and all text ©Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: TangleFlow

Such a silent place: the green and ghostly remains of Nuttalburg, West Virginia.

John and I were recently its sole explorers, whence this image. The visual poetry of the outworn often speaks to me.

This tangle was part of a tipple, which conveyed coal to boxcars to market. Eager to control all aspects of his production, Henry Ford owned this mine awhile, and made this system. He found minds creative enough to imagine these objects, bodies strong enough to build and place them. And always, bellies hungry for work.

Hear the phantom pandemonium: coal thundering into the cars, trains clattering over the tracks, ear-splitting squeals of wheels and pulleys and whistles. Nearby, dinnerbells and shouting schoolchildren. A vibrant place it was, propelled and prolonged by sheer might.

It’s fitting to remember in a week of international climate discussions, this was a system that seemed unbreakable, untwistable, invincible.

When at last dismantled, it must have roared to the ground like a Beethoven coda.

As these frayed muscles of industry show, even in tangle there is flow; in decay, abraded splendor. Though Beethoven shows no sign of wear.



I’ll be channeling Mother Nature this Saturday, September 27,  at the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festivaland being my own self with delightful young poets on  Sunday 4-6 at the opening of this year’s second Poetry Trail at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum. You would be a welcome sight at either place. 



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– 


Love Drops: A Writer Wednesday Post

September 10th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Uncategorized - (10 Comments)

I am traveling again this week,  so I wanted to prepare my post ahead of time.  A few sentences in, however, the phone rang.  At a glance I knew two beloved voices and a birthday were involved at the other end. Though it was my only writing window, the meaningful action was clear, so I answered the phone and shared a warm conversation.

After I hung up, the following phrase charged into my head, and I was moved to take the rest of my writing time to letter it instead–

Love Drops


May love drop many whats for you this week–

Intimate Privilege: A Writer Wednesday Post

September 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Essays - (16 Comments)


To The Upper Room Toward the Upper Room, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: Intimate Privilege

Ever since I first learned to wash dishes and endure long car rides with siblings, I have dearly loved singing harmony. But I can’t join a conventional singing group. John and I travel so much that I would miss many rehearsals.

Last fall, however, I saw a request for singers. A “Threshold Choir” was forming locally, requiring only one rehearsal a month.  What sent intuition’s shiver up my spine, however, was the choir’s destination and purpose: when invited, to offer the simple gift of song at the bedsides of those who are dying. Those on The Threshold.

The songs are simple, non-denominational, just what you might want on your way out: “You’ve been loved, deeply loved,” goes one. Images of light, spirit and comfort.

I know that one reason I was prompted to this service was my spontaneous discovery years ago that when Alzheimer’s had carried off all my mother’s words, we were still able to sing together. How her face beamed. Mine, too, I’m sure.

After several months of practice, our small group has now begun singing at bedsides. Suffice it to say, it is an intimate privilege, indeed.

I did not intend to post about it, but changed my mind when I received a link this week to an NPR story about Threshold Choirs.  Over a hundred have formed across North America since Kate Munger created the first one in 2000. It occurred to me you may have a loved one who might benefit from this service. Or you might feel the same shiver I did when learning about them, and be drawn, as was I, to a bit of midwifery toward the next world, singing lullabies to lives.


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