Category Archives: Family

Red Rock Trail

Living in Utah, I have come to love what we call “red rock country.”  Bizarre twisted shapes dominate canyon landscapes, in every hue of red and orange, remnants of ancient tectonic upheavals and eons of erosion.  On the trails winding through these hills I have found inspiration and wonderment, pondering the forces of creation and nature.  I have held my young children’s hands as we scrambled over boulders and up screes.  We have marveled at the prickly-pear’s crimson bloom and the aromatic sagebrush.  We have laughed at the lizards and cottontails scurrying for cover beneath black brush and Mormon tea.  All, the stuff of awe and sweet memory.  In this poem I look back at an early red-rock-country explorer on horseback.  Enjoy the trail.

RED ROCK TRAIL

shod hoofs
stumble on stones,
leave glintings
behind, sparks,
scramble to rise
to the high red butte;
desert varnish trickles
below, springs
sprout cottonwoods,
beaver chewed,
beaver felled,
feeding, damming
all but flashing
floods from distant rains
beyond, where
snows melt
under desert sun
on the high red butte

Snow Canyon, Utah

You Showed Me

My assistant city attorneys and I have prosecuted domestic violence perpetrators for 24 years.  I have come to loathe the mentality that allows a perpetrator to use violence to maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.  The very person the perpetrator should love with tenderness he beats into submission.  A cherished friend recently confided in me that her estranged husband had clobbered her in the face with a work boot he was holding, breaking her nose.  As painful as was the injury to her face, the deeper injury was to her spirit and her mind.  That strike caused her eyes to swell and blacken, but at the same time opened her eyes wide to who and what he was, and to what a future with him would bring.  I wrote this poem to honor my friend’s courage to see the truth and to seek a place of safety for herself and her children.  I dedicate this poem to all victims of domestic violence, those who survive and thrive, and those who have not yet broken free.  God bless.

YOU SHOWED ME

You bashed my face
with your boot,
steel-toed,
to show me
who you are:
tough, in control,
powerful.

You broke my nose
with your heel.

Our lambs watched, and
wept.

I am bleeding now,
swollen, my face
red and sore.

Yes, you showed me
the man you are.

But I say
to your face:
You missed!

Bereft I may be, but
I am not destroyed!
Because
you beat me,
you bruised me,
you cut me,
but you missed
my heart
my mind
my dreams
my soul
my will.

Yes,
you showed me.

Christmas Barn

 

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Amidst all the holiday gift-giving, certain gifts stand, gifts of more than things but also of the heart.  My son Hyrum’s gift to his sister Hannah was one such gift, a gift to always remember. Hyrum (14) conceived of the idea, drew the idea, and saved his money for the materials. Together we engineered the structure, bought the materials, and began construction.  His gift: a miniature barn with hinged roof.  This series of photographs shows each step of the construction process, culminating with Hannah (10) opening her gift on Christmas morning.  I think of Hyrum’s gift as a miracle gift, for he gave part of himself along with the present.

The base frame, 18″ x 18″, allowing for a two-story central main building with an attached lean-to on each side.

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Adding posts to support the main barn roof.

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Completing the barn and lean-to frames.

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The completed frame with the interior floor installed and the wall siding begun.

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Wall siding and lean-to roofing completed with lathe.  The roof frame sit, hinged, on the main barn structure.

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The completed hinged roof frame atop the barn.

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The completed barn, prior to painting.

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Hyrum painting the barn.

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And . . . the completed barn project.

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Most importantly, Hannah on Christmas morning opening her special gift, inside which Hyrum placed a wrapped bucket of perfectly-sized farm animals.

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Hannah’s Christmas barn became my favorite Christmas gift, too.  I enjoyed working with my son for weeks to engineer, construct, paint, and wrap the barn.  I witnessed the joy on my daughter’s face (and on Hyrum’s face) as Hannah opened her special gift.

Smashed

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I have lived alone for 1 year now: 52 weeks: 365 days.  The highlight of my life is to see my children.  They grew a gorgeous garden this year, and shared with me their harvest: sweet corn; swiss chard; cucumbers.  And a pumpkin.  Their front porch is adorned with two dozen perfect orange pumpkins.  Hyrum and Hannah offered me one, perfectly round, with a spiraling stem. The pumpkin reminded me of them each night when I came home from work.  It looked so cute sitting by the front door, until one evening I found it smashed on the rocks.

SMASHED

To Whoever
smashed my pumpkin:
I wondered
how long
my pumpkin would survive
you.

Not long.

My little daughter
raised this pumpkin
in her garden.

I love her.
I do not get to see her much.
I miss her.

So, I set by my door
her pumpkin, my pumpkin.
It reminded me of her.

I dared to hope
you would let it be.
But you smashed
my little girl’s
pumpkin.

(PS.  She gave me another yesterday.  One can hope.)

Wood Lamp: Joia

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Writing a letter to his Grandpa Baker (80) this morning for father’s day, Hyrum (14) turned to me and asked, “Grandpa has been finding some cool wood for me to make lamps out of.  Do you think he would like one of my lamps as a father’s day present?”  “I’m sure he would love it,” of course I replied.

Hyrum found the piece of wood for this little lamp when working for a friend to clear his yard and flower gardens of weeds.  Obscured by the weeks was the small stump of a dead evergreen.  Hyrum could see the potential in this dead stump.  He asked if he could make something out of it, brought it home, and began to give it new life as a lamp.

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We made bases for small lamps by cutting discs off the end of an old cedar fence post.  The wood was old and cracked, but we wood-glued the pieces together, allowed them to cure, then ran them through a neighbor’s planer.

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We named the little lamp Joia, a joyous Portuguese word meaning “gem.”  Hyrum gave Joia to his Grandpa today, the same Grandpa that inspired our lamp-making in the first place with his lamp Timponogos, about 55 years old.  Grandpa seemed as pleased to receive the lamp as Hyrum was to gift it.  This little gem of a lamp has connected the generations with memories and a common love of creation and beauty.

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Wood Lamp: Timponogos

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Wood Lamp Timponogos by Owen Nelson Baker, Jr.

In the late 1950s, when my mother was my dad’s girlfriend, the two of them hiked to the peak of Mt. Timponogos in Utah.  (Nelson and Lucille have been married for 54 years.)  The 20-mile hike ends with optional slide down a steep, half-mile-long glacier.  (I made the mistake of sliding down this glacier 60 years after they did.  I slid so violently and fast, hitting dozens of rocks and holes on the way, that I thought I was going to die.  My backside was black-and-blue for months!)

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Timponogos Glacier

Owen Nelson Baker, Jr., my father, returned from that trip with a large piece of twisted root-wood on his shoulder.  He sandblasted it clean and smooth, drilled it, wired it, stained it, mounted it, and switched on the light of this gorgeous wood lamp, which I have named Timponogos.  The heavy iron base he hack-sawed off of an antique bird cage.  The root-wood still contains a sizable stone around which the roots grew.

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The antique oak table on which Timponogos rests was made by my father’s grandfather, also Nelson Baker, who was a machinist and mine foreman for the Prince gold mind in Pioche, Nevada.

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Notice the solid brace construction.

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I have decorated the Timponogos table top with antique tools made and used long ago by great-grandpa Nelson.

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My father’s beautiful lamp, which I have admired all of my life, is the inspiration behind Baker Brothers Lamps, an enterprise in which I join my three younger sons–John, Caleb, and Hyrum–to make beautiful wood lamps that we sell to fund our attendance at the National Boy Scout Jamboree, and for their future college expenses.  (Sorry to disappoint, but Timponogos is not for sale.)

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Dad and the Baker Brothers on 9/11/2011

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John, Dad, and Caleb coming home tired from the 2013 National Jamboree

We continue to enjoy making beautiful wood lamps together, the pictures and stories of which I will continue to post on this blog and offer for sale.  Here are links to some of the lamps we have made thus so far.  We hope you like them.

Dolphin

Grace

Smoke

Waves

Reach

Little Guy

Stone

No Diving

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Photo by Liddy Mills

I live in an apartment now.  My children come to visit.  Mostly I am alone.  But I have books, music, poetry, crock-pot dinners . . . and a hot tub.  My children and I sit in the roiling 110-degree water even when the ambient air is 20 degrees F, and the steam has condensed in frozen icicles hanging from the hot tub railing.  We talk about life, their soccer goals and rugby tries, sore muscles, ornery pimples, church dances, dates and the prom, stubborn cowlicks and bad haircuts, good books, good movies, hopes and dreams.  We flex our biceps and splash steaming water at each other and laugh.  Sometimes after work I soak alone, watch the steam rise, and write a poem.

NO DIVING

in the hot tub
three feet deep
no diving sign in the tile
ice clings to the chrome railing
steam, and contemplations,
billowing, billowing