Category Archives: Walking

Travelers

Oh Pioneers!  Song of the Open Road.  I have enjoyed reading these and other poems from Walt Whitman’s anthology Leaves of Grass.  Whitman shows such ebullience and enthusiasm for life, such hope for the progress of humanity.  After reading these more than once, I thought to write my own poem about this journey of life, after my own heart and style, inspired by Whitman.

TRAVELERS

Ho!
Fellow traveler!
Share the road
with a vagabond?
May I walk with you
to wherever?
I’ll be glad
of your company,
to be sure!
Such a dusty, lonely road
it has been.
Look at these shoes!
The holes in the soles!
Now, they have seen
a pretty mile or two,
and have a story or two
to tell! Aye!
Hey—them is prodigious
holes of your own!
Wary that stone, now,
friend,
for tis but the tip
of a larger,
and would break your kicking toe!
Whence hail you,
if you do not mind?
It be a long way?
Aye, that be a distance!
You seek
a situation, then, employ?
Or, may I be bold,
my new friend,
flee you a broken heart?
I understand you, aye,
only too well.
Though you walk and walk,
the break follows,
and the sorrow.
You search for solace:
tis natural.
And death—
you know it?
That we all flee,
yet it follows, too close,
stalking,
at times, too close,
from us taking,
left and right,
the ones we love
most. Aye. Aye.
I know it, too,
my brother….
But, my dear fellow!
Look!
See!
The sun sets behind.
Always behind!
And on the morrow?
A New Sun rises!
To be sure.
To be sure!
Let not us part
the way we walk
together,
for we will find
companionship in company,
in the step step step
of our direction,
in the clop clop clop
of our resolve.
The morrow
we will command!
The Heavens will send manna,
coveys of quail,
and waters
from the dry stone!
You shall see!
You shall certainly see!

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Snow

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A snowy Rabbit Lane

In arid Utah we are grateful for snows that persist through March, April, and sometimes even into May.  I remember a May 1993 snowstorm that dropped a full three feet of new snow on the streets and yards of Salt Lake City, the year after I returned from being a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal to live with my grandmother, Dora.  These Spring snows add high-mountain snow pack that continues to slowly percolate thousands of feet through fractured bedrock, into valley aluvia, recharging the aquifers that allow us to turn the desert into a rose.  So, even though I post this poem at the end of March, it is still snow season in Utah.  I hope you enjoy the poem.

SNOW

Sky lets down her snow
in slow and heavy flakes
all the long day
as if the world, everywhere,
has never known but snow:
slow and easy, flakes
perching undetected
in my thinning hair,
granting shy moist cool
kisses on the bulb
of my nose, on my soft
sagging cheeks, crystals resting
on lashes looking up
to a distant gentle font.
Wind does not dare to blow.

Church Bells

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(Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, PA)

Walking in the snow on Rabbit Lane I began thinking about Christmas bells ringing from church towers all over the celebrating world.  I pondered the many emotions associated with pealing church bells.  Happiness in marriage.  Sorrow in death.  Fear in disaster.  Hope that “all is well”.  The Liberty Bell rang in joyful celebration of America’s independence.  I composed this song about church bells at Christmastime, attempting to embrace all of these emotions, especially excitement at the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the World.  Here is the sheet music for you to enjoy: Church Bells.

Chapter 48: What Is To Come

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–Wherever you live, find your Rabbit Lane.–

(Photo credit: Jeanette Baker Davis)

Christmas day.  A warm south wind had begun to howl in the early morning hours, the kind of wind that tears off siding and rips at shingles.  A particular set of vulnerable shingles had flapped irritatingly above my bed all night long, as if under the sticks of a novice but indefatigable drummer.  All day long the wind had blown, with frequent gusts that shook the house and trembled the floor under my chair.  The bird feeders swung wildly on their wires, like marionettes under the hand of a demented puppeteer.  We knew the pattern: the wind would blow and blow until the climactic dissonance resolved in a downpour of driving rain or sleet or snow.  At 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Angie called us to where she stood by the front door opened wide to a world covered with new whiteness.  The south wind had stopped, replaced by a steady northern breeze bringing the snow from over the lake.  Brian, home from his first semester of college, announced happily that he was going for a walk.  He bounded away with enthusiasm. Continue reading

Chapter 47: Big-Wheel Ecosystem

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–Rabbit Lane is a short nothing of a dirt road in Erda, USA.–

The air was crisp but warmer than a typical January day.  The sky hung gray, and pockets of darker clouds dropped round, soft pellets of dry snow.  Shades of orange accented the western mountaintops.  Feathers of unseen House Swallows rustled from inside Wild Rose and Willow bushes.  The scene made for an idyllic late Sunday afternoon walk on Rabbit Lane.  Idyllic and peaceful . . . except for Hannah (3) riding her big-wheel tricycle behind me.  The wide, hollow, pink plastic wheels ground over the disintegrating asphalt, radiating into the peacefulness the racket of an ore crusher.  I couldn’t hear my wife talk or myself think. Continue reading

Chapter 45: Of Light and Love

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–I need the light on to keep my eyes warm. (Caleb-3)
–I need the light on to go to sleep because I can’t see. (Hannah-3)

Early one morning I notice a light in the Weyland wheat field next to Rabbit Lane.  The soft circle of lantern light bobs around over the newly-sprouted wheat, magically as if without a master, seemingly unattached to a farmer.  The night sky begins to lighten, and I can see the dim outlines of a man checking the sprinkler heads on a wheel line.

Ron starts his big John Deere early, headlights blaring, before I can see its trademark green and yellow.  The tractor pulls behind a homemade harrow: creosoted rail beams loosely chained together with railroad spikes pounded through.  The harrow tears at the rooted wheat chaff, spewing up dust that creeps over Rabbit Lane like a heavy, brown fog. Continue reading

Pavement

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Paving Rabbit Lane changed the nature of the country road so totally and quickly that my mind and emotions struggled to adjust.  Gone were the gravel, hard-pack dirt, and potholes.  In their place lay milled asphalt, the detritus of some other road mixed with new oil and laid roughly to rest on Rabbit Lane.  Some chunks still showed patches of yellow striping, so disjointed as to be of no use to the traveler, pointing in no direction and every direction.  As I saw it, the County had strangled the life out of Rabbit Lane.  I, also, found it harder to breath.  This poem portrays my early perspectives of this black-oil change.  (See the Chapter 38: Black-Oil Pavement post on the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog for a related discussion.)

PAVEMENT

It happened sooner than I expected.
ROAD CLOSED barricades appeared at either end.
They had paved Rabbit Lane.
They had paved Rabbit Lane with roto-mill from some other road’s temporary demise,
mixed the black rubbish with new oil
and plastered it flat upon the hard, living earth.
Now, after rain, Rabbit Lane reveals nothing,
no tracks of the earthworm pushing perilously slowly across the road,
no paw or claw prints of raccoons or pheasants.
No more wet pot holes for the children to ride their bicycles through with a whoop.
Instead, oil leaches invisibly into the ditch
to water cattle and crops some place too far away for accountability.
Pink-flowered milkweed and wispy willow bush cling to the asphalt fringe.
They transformed Rabbit Lane from a dirt farm road with country appeal
to another icon of the American Nowhere, with all the charm of a parking lot.
Rabbit Lane, of course, neither knows nor cares about the change.
But I know, and I am saddened.

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Chapter 33: Shooting Stars

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–Be kind.  Always.–

Turning from north to south at the half-way point on my Rabbit Lane walk, I look southeast toward the mountain peaks still sleeping under the early-morning sky.  A star rises from behind a peak and continues in its slow journey toward zenith.

To the east of where I walk, strings of lights move slowly in the distance, white lights crawling forward, red lights inching away, two parallel lines of progress making their way to and from the offices and factories and stores of wares.  They send forth a collective engine-and-tire hum to hover over the fields with the fog.  A Union Pacific train’s whistle flows out gently over the valley from its tracks on Lake Bonneville’s fossil bank.  In the west, the lighthouse, itself out of sight, emits soft sweeping beams: white-green-white-green.  The beams penetrate Winter’s ice-crystal air to trace slow arcs across the gray belly of the sky, a ceiling above me, above Rabbit Lane.  The universe of stars—the heavens—are out there, somewhere farther above, hanging mostly hidden by clouds.  My fingers, toes, ears, and nose ache from the crystalline cold. Continue reading

Chapter 32: Snow Angel

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–Sweetness: that which induces a slow rolling of the tongue, a gentle closing of the eyes,
and an escape from the lips of a sensuous, sighing, “ahh.”–

Two young girls rode their bicycles down Church Road coming from the direction of Rabbit Lane.  Working in the yard, I looked up just as one bicycle, ridden by the younger girl, slid on a gravelly patch, and she fell face forward onto the asphalt.  I ran toward the crying girl, about six years old, with my concerned children following close behind.  Blood oozed from abrasions on the girl’s knee and elbow and cheek, and a tooth was broken. Continue reading

Chapter 26: Of Dogs and Cursing

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–Kind words counter the world’s cruelties.–

Quiet is a rare luxury at our house.  If not the cows or dogs or pumps, I can usually count on my children to fill my quiet moments.  But not all noise is unpleasant.

One day Hyrum (2) said sternly to his big brother Brian (14), “Brian, don’t keel anyone.  OK?  Because it’s dangerous.”

He was dead serious, as if in grown-up conversation.  It was apparent that the word kill had only a vague meaning to him.  It didn’t equate to the loss of life, but related more closely to roughhousing or child’s play, as in “Bang!  Bang!  You’re dead!”  Continue reading

Chapter 25: Shining Shoes

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–Knock, knock.–
–Who’s there?–
–Shampoo.–
–Shampoo who?–
–Made you look! Made you look! Made you eat your underwear!–
(Caleb-3 to Dad)

As a four-year-old, Caleb loved cowboy boots, though he didn’t have any of his own.  Somewhere he found some hand-me-down boots, one brown and one black, different sizes, both for the left foot.  He wore them everywhere, without socks, running in shorts and a t-shirt around the yard, whooping and hollering, digging in the garden, shooting his stick rifle, tromping in the pig pen.

My dress shoes hold their shine quite well for several months.  But eventually the time comes when I need to polish them.  Shining my shoes quickly becomes a family affair.  It seems that the moment I open the can of polish, the strong smell runs throughout the house, as if summoning the children, and they in turn come running, each with at least one pair of their own shoes.  They watch me patiently for a minute or two.

“Can I help you shine your shoes, Dad?” they each ask.  Next, “will you help me shine my shoes?”  Then, “Can I shine my own shoes?”

In the 1970s, before I can remember him doing it, my father made himself a wooden shoeshine box.  He made one for me at the same time, with my initials carved artistically in one end: REB.  The ends of the shoe box are shaped like broad spades; the sides slant inward and down to form a narrow bottom.  The wide lid is hinged, and a cross bar connects the tops of the two spade handles.  The box is stained a rich walnut.  Inside the box sit various cans of polish: dark brown, light brown, tan, cordovan, ox blood, white, and two cans of black.  The black polish gets used up the quickest, because I use it on every shoe to dress up the sole and heel edges.  Mixed in with the cans are various old gym socks and toothbrushes.  My favorite item is the wood-handled horse-hair brush made in Israel.  Over more than 30 years of polishing shoes, the horse hairs have slowly shortened to about half their original length.  But the hairs remain just soft enough and just course enough to give a perfect shine.

I formerly used the old gym socks, wrapped around my fingers, to apply the polish.  But I grew tired of dark stains on my fingertips where the polish seeped through the socks.  Now I use old toothbrushes to wipe the thick polish out of the can and work it into the leather.  When I’m done, the toothbrushes go into the socks to keep the box clean.  The polish dries and flakes inside the toothbrush bristles, so I vigorously work the bristles back and forth against the inside of the sock, both when putting the brushes away and when retrieving them for the next job, so that I don’t scatter specks of dried polish that stain my clothing and the carpet the next time I pull them out to polish.

I usually have enough patience to polish three pairs of shoes.  The number reduces to two if the children are clamoring to help.  Allowing a child to participate in shining shoes complicates the process significantly.  I place the can carefully on a rag so that the helping child doesn’t smear polish on the carpet or furniture.  I make sure he doesn’t scrape too much polish onto the brush to prevent globs from falling onto the carpet.  I see that she doesn’t fill the crevices and holes in the leather with polish, like putty.  I double check that every bit of leather has a film of fresh polish.  I let them help with the polish for a little while.  What works best is for me to apply the polish and to let them shine the shoes with the horse-hair brush.  Nothing can go wrong with shining.  Shining works best by placing one hand inside the shoe and passing the brush over the shoe with even, swinging strokes with the brush hand.  The in-shoe hand turns and angles the shoe to allow the brush to shine every part of the shoe.  I show the children how, then hand them the shoe and the brush.  Their little hands don’t fill the shoe like mine, making it harder to hold the shoe steady in the face of the swinging brush.  But when their hands grow, they will know how to hold the shoe steady for the best shine.  Their feet will grow, too, and their hearts and their minds, and will fill larger shoes than mine.

Many times after church and our mid-day meal we take a family walk on Rabbit Lane.  I sometimes forget (or am too lazy) to change out of my newly-polished shoes.  Back from our walk, I see that fine dust from the dirt road has settled upon my shoes, covering the polish.  A few strokes with the horse-hair brush usually restore the shine.

I find myself shining my shoes less and less over time.  As my shoes age, I feel less motivated to keep them looking nice.  I wear them scuffed, unpolished, and old.  Some lawyers I work with never seem to shine their shoes.  If the polish gets significantly scuffed, they simply buy new shoes.  I wear mine until they are worn out, polishing them (or not) for years.  Even an old shoe assumes new respectability with a fresh coat of polish.

I like the pungent odor of shoe polish: it reminds me of my childhood home and the aroma of my father’s regular shoe polishing.  He kept his wooden shoe shine box in his walk-in closet, with his initials carved in the side: ONB.  But not everyone enjoys the strong odor.  I fret that if I polish my shoes in my closet, it will smell up my wife’s clothing.  Maybe I should polish my shoes on the porch, or in the tool shed, or in the chicken coop, where the smell won’t bother anyone.

Summer Song

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I could hear them as I approached the north end of Rabbit Lane.  Ka-swishhh ka-swishhh ka-swishhh ka-swishhh–swika swika swika swika swika.  With the blue sky above, the fields and pastures all around, and the butterflies and bees winging in warm air, the sound of the ground-line sprinklers was true music.  A summer song.

Summer Song

Ground-line sprinklers in the green alfalfa hay
make such pretty music,
like the field song of crickets and katydids
on a hot, summer evening.
Cows’ tails swishing in the tall, dry grass,
and the breeze fluttering stiff poplar leaves,
add apropos percussion
to the sublimity and song.

Chapter 22: Reza

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–Good men and good women make great differences in the world.–

My Persian friend, Reza, joins my family on occasion for Sunday dinner.  Over several Sunday visits, he told us parts of his life story, including how he left his homeland of Iran.  Reza had been a wealthy industrialist in Iran: young, educated, and ambitious, with millions of dollars invested in an industrial complex fabricating modular housing units.  Then the Ayatollahs overthrew the Shah and began their reign.  The new regime did not at first seem to pose a threat to Reza or his industrial operations.  Soon, however, they began to appropriate the proceeds of his operations while at the same time demanding that he continue to incur all his operating costs. Continue reading

Chapter 21: Cricket Chorus

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Hyrum, you’re my little bug.

Under low, heavy clouds and a light, misty rain, the lighthouse beam shines in a shaft for miles as it slowly sweeps the sky. Continue reading

Open Eyes

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The more I walk on Rabbit Lane, the more I notice the nuanced environment around me, in the hay fields, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the cows.  And with each step I ponder the meaning of things, of what I see and feel.  I begin to understand more about the worlds both without and within myself.

OPEN EYES

when
we open our eyes
the places we walk
will show us
wonderful things
but also hard
heart-wrenching things
beauty and sorrow
sometimes each alone
often all together

The Calf

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Snow fell lightly in the early-morning darkness as I walked on Rabbit Lane.  Just past Ron’s house, I found a newborn calf lying in the shallow swale beneath the barbed wire fence.  Flakes of snow flecked its black fur.  This newborn had somehow lost its mother and was dying in the cold of the ditch.  I groaned as I hefted the heavy calf and staggered to Ron’s back door.  Ron soon came, taking the calf into his warm house with a “thank you.”  The experiencing of finding and rescuing the newborn calf moved me deeply, and I wrote this poem.

THE CALF

The calf
lay beneath the rusted barbed wire fence
by the side of Rabbit Lane:
a lonely, black puddle in Winter’s whiteness,
salted with slowly settling snowflakes.
Death’s sadness reached into me,
a dull ache in my empty stomach.
It drew me to the calf.
I came near and reached out
to touch the black fur.
The small, black head lifted weakly,
turning big, moist eyes
to meet mine,
speaking to me
a simple, sad story:
of wandering from its mamma,
of slipping between the loose, rusty strands,
of learning it was lost,
of growing cold and weary,
of knowing fear,
of slumping down to die.
I strained to heave the newborn from the snow,
and trudged with my burden to
the dilapidated farmhouse.
I knocked shyly, a stranger,
whispered at the back door,
transferred my quivering bundle
to the thankful farmer,
to the warmth of a coal fire and a tender expression,
to warm bottled milk,
to a promise:
to find a mother,
to restore the proper order of things.

Chapter 17: Foreshadowing

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–The Milkweed will push through to grow tall, fragrant, and beautiful, to call the Monarch.–

The disc cushioning my lumbar 4 and 5 vertebrae has been bulging capriciously since I was 12 years old.  It was then that I experienced my first unexpected spine-twisting spasms that paralyzed me sitting in my church pew.  A bulging disc means a frequently aching back, with locked joints and tense muscles.  The pain is always different depending on which way the disc is bulging and, more importantly, which area of the spinal nerves the disc is irritating.  While it becomes difficult and painful to bend, I somehow always manage to dry my feet after a shower, to shimmy on my socks, to tie my shoes, and to drive to work, even if I do have to lie occasionally on the floor during the mayor’s staff meeting. Continue reading

4 degrees F

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My phone registers 4 degrees Fahrenheit as I walk this New Year’s Eve morning on Rabbit Lane. I do not enjoy the cold, but I know that I will find beauty on Rabbit Lane, despite the adversity, or perhaps because of it.  I am wearing as many layers as my boots, pants, and coat can accommodate.  Brisk movement is my best protection.  Also, the air is still, and the brilliant sun shines warm on my back, cutting through the cold.

Despite having completed the manuscript of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, which I am posting on this blog one chapter at a time, I know that the true story will never be fully told.  Beautiful things will happen every hour of every day that deserve telling.  The spirits of people passed on will whisper, You forgot about me.

Today, I come upon Russian Olive trees still sporting abundant fruits, burnished by months of hanging in the sun (photo above).  A Red-shafted Northern Flicker launches from a tree, flapping furiously, then torpedoes through the air without wing-beats, then flaps furiously again, sporting its white tail patch and orange primary underwings.  Torpedo.  Flap.  Dive.  Beat. There is always something new, something beautiful.

This poem attempts to capture the paradox of having completed something that can never be complete.  I hope you enjoy this last glimpse of Rabbit Lane from 2014.

POSTSCRIPTS TO A PARADOX

My manuscript is finished.
Everything there was to write, I wrote.
All the notes have been transcribed, expanded, and stitched up.
I proofread it, twice, and double-checked the formatting.
I capitalized the name of each Bird and Butterfly and Tree and Flower.
Now there is only rejoicing, recounting, and remembering.
But nothing new can happen.
My manuscript is finished.

PSs.
Bruce told me a story,
a good one, about Harvey,
that I hadn’t heard before.

Horses ran to the fence to greet us,
cheerfully, kicking up snow
and snorting steam.

Long after sunset
a thinning patch in heavy gray snow
clouds still held light, Hannah (8) pointed out.

Witch’s Tree is rotting,
her skin and flesh flaking off
into the dry waste of Witch’s Pond.

Old Cottonwood has unquestionably grown
beyond his once 17-foot girth,
though his tree-top branches languish.

(But nothing new can happen.)

Coming Home

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I stopped to watch the pulsing airport beacon–my desert lighthouse–as I walked in the snow today on Rabbit Lane.  White.  Green.  White.  Green.  “See that beacon?” I asked Hannah (8), whose gloved hand held mine while we gazed.  “It’s like a lighthouse showing the way for ships in trouble to make for shore.  Long before Hannah was born, I gazed out the window with Erin, then 5, as the old beacon bulbs swept slow arcs around the sky, lighting up the clouded underbelly of the sky.  I imagined sailing ships rocking precariously amidst tumultuous waves, the sailors shouting commands and wondering how to obtain the shore in one piece.  I also imagined their frightened families at home, wondering if they would ever see their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons again.  With this troubled image in mind, I wrote this one-verse song about these sailors, nearly lost in the storms, coming home at last.  (Read more about this beacon in Chapter 4: Desert Lighthouse on the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog.)

Coming Home

Fences

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Farm fences flank me as I walk on Rabbit Lane two days before Christmas.  Walking the length of the country road, I begin to contemplate the nature of fences.  Fences keep the cattle in their pastures, while keeping pheasant poachers out.  Fences remind me of the limitations I put on myself through fear and doubt.  I think of social, legal, political, and relationship boundaries.  I ponder that each cedar fence post used to be a juniper tree thriving in the Utah desert.  I imagine lines of soldiers marching into battle in distant early-morning mists.  Ultimately, we can choose to transcend many of our life’s fences, like the butterfly that simply flies over, as if the fences do not exist.

FENCES

Grain-field fences march
away in a disciplined line,
cedar post after cedar post,
rough-barked,
each tugging its barbs
taut as burning guns
at soldiers’ cheeks, marching
straight and away at an acute angle
to the way I would go,
hemming me in with wicked wire
points, urging me down, at the risk
of gash and scar, the direct
and dusty disciplined road,
while a Tiger Swallowtail
lazily wafts its easy way across
the fence to flutter above
the ripe wheat tops,
and a Western Kingbird
darts here and there,
erratic, up and down,
above all artificial lines, chasing
invisible insects overhead.

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Chapter 14: No Trespassing

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–A butterfly graces equally the idyllic mountain meadow and the urban flower box.–

On a cedar fence post near Rabbit Lane an old sign announces “No Trespassing.”  The letters were burned or carved into the worn and weathered plank.  The sign has been cracked by the black head of a rusting iron nail driven into the cedar post.  The sign has long ago lost any intimidating aspect, and it now resembles the endearing smile of a gap-toothed old man. Continue reading

Chapter 12: Worm Sign

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–A sincere smile can change the world.–

The night’s rains have turned the hard-packed-dirt surface of Rabbit Lane into a thin slick of mud, with small pools in the valleys between washboard peaks.  Long earthworms, flushed from their deluged burrows, make their tedious way across the muddy film, seeming to wander without any sense of where they need to go.  Slight worm tracks criss-cross the slick: shallow smooth ruts, their directions and intersections chaotic, random, crossing over and following each other without discernible pattern.  They leave only faint signs of their humble existence. Continue reading

Come Walk with Me

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It was obvious to me that my daughter, Laura, was feeling emotional distress. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I asked.  “Nothing,” she replied, in typical hold-it-in fashion.  I put my arm around her and said, “Come walk with me on Rabbit Lane.”  We walked, she talked and cried, and I listened and did my best to buoy her up.  We have taken many walks on Rabbit Lane since.  Rabbit Lane has become more to me than an unremarkable little dirt country road.  It has become for me a place of contemplation, enlightenment, and healing.  I wrote this poem not only to remember the occasion of that walk with Laura, and of many other special walks with my family, but also as an invitation to you, my fellow travelers, to come walk with me down Rabbit Lane, as it were, in our respective journeys to understand, to grow, and to be the best men and women we can be.

COME WALK WITH ME

Come walk with me,
my child.
Come walk with me
down Rabbit Lane.
Tell me your troubles.
Tell me your fears.
Tell me your joys and your dreams.
Tell me everything
while we walk
past racing horses and cudding cattle,
past the llama guarding thick-wooled sheep,
past deep-green alfalfa and wispy golden grain,
past the skittish muskrat diving to its ditch-bank burrow,
past Monarch caterpillars poised on pink, perfumed milkweed flowers.
Come walk with me,
my child,
just you and me.
Come walk with me
down Rabbit Lane.

I Left the House

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While I don’t care for the cold of winter, I find that winter walking reveals unparalleled beauty despite the leafless trees, and brings unique pleasures and insights, such as those discussed in this poem.  And winter mornings are quiet.  So, as much as I prefer the warmer seasons, I still enjoy bundling up and heading to Rabbit Lane for pre-dawn winter walks.  (For more discussion of winter walks in the snow, see the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog, Chapter 8: Tracks in the Snow post.)

I LEFT THE HOUSE

I left the house
to walk a long walk
through the uncertain silhouettes
of morning’s pre-dawn dim,
and found that
Heaven had graced Earth,
silently,
magically,
with a covering of snow,
soft on the hard, frozen earth,
pale gray in the lingering starlight.

On the farm road,
tire tracks sliced and sullied the snow,
leaving long, undulating ruts
to follow.
I quickly chose the ease of the rut.
Then I found the tracks of
other travelers—mice, rabbits, a raccoon—
meandering, veering, crossing,
as necessary or desirable.
Then I, too, left the pre-established path,
and made my own way through the snow.
The frozen crust crunched and gave way
under the weight of my boots;
each step sent up a small crystalline cloud;
white snow caps clung to my toes;
my legs protested with burning fatigue at
the effort of resisting the rut.

The snow turned from gray to white with the fading of night,
tinged with the pink of impending sunrise.
In the undisturbed snow beside the rutted tracks,
the sun’s first rays revealed an infinity of microscopic prisms,
sparkling brief flashes of rainbow color.

In the distance behind,
the house waited patiently for my return.

Chapter 8: Tracks in the Snow

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–Wherever I am, I find that the road stretches both ahead and behind.–

From the airport lighthouse shine alternating beams of white and green light, ghostly sweeping columns in the crystalline air against the undersides of low-hanging clouds.  Here, walking in this desert, I imagine a lighthouse perched on a craggy rock cliff, overlooking ocean waves beating themselves in ferocious crashes against the rock, and ships with trimmed sails rocking, taking on water, close to sinking, with frantic, frightened sailors looking to the light as to a savior, the only thing in the world they can cling to, trust in. Continue reading

Chapter 5: Old Cottonwood

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–Engage your mind or others will engage it for you.–

Cottonwood trees are the legacy of the departed farmer.  Once mere twigs, they grew quickly to become giants of the valley landscape.  The oldest Cottonwoods are slowly dying.  Each Spring the emerging leaves draw in closer to the trunks, leaving more of the outstretched branches as bare as skeletons.  More and more bark sloughs off, leaving the trunks to bleach in the Summer sun.  Dead Cottonwood trees resemble the ruins of medieval cathedrals.  The bare branches seem sculpted and shaped, like the flying buttresses that once supported a stone ceiling but that now lift up the ceiling of the sky. Continue reading

Chapter 3: Hawk

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–In the presence of goodness, good people rejoice.–

My boots crunch loudly on the loose and frozen gravel, rousing common sparrows from their cold roosts in the willow and wild rose bushes.  Despite being leafless in December, the bushes seem an impenetrable tangle of twigs and dead leaves.  I hear, rather than see, the birds fluttering and tweeting within.  I have bundled myself against the bitter cold, and wonder how these almost weightless creatures survive Winter.  I imagine them huddled in their houses, mostly protected from the wind, their feathers puffed out to gather insulating air, with temperatures sinking to just above zero.  I marvel that these birds constantly peep and sing, fluttering about with the energy of jubilation.  I envy them their unconditional happiness.  I have come to appreciate their enthusiasm, to rely upon their unassailable cheerfulness. Continue reading

Chapter 1: First Walk

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–Never betray inspiration with hesitation.–

Sleepily down Church Road I walked, past an unmarked dirt lane traveled most often by farmers on tractors.  Somehow I had tumbled out of bed and out the door.  I would much rather have continued my slumber under warm covers.  Crisp darkness and the ripe fragrance of dew upon cut hay greeted me as I stepped onto the covered porch.  I could see only silhouettes in the lingering darkness: old trees planted by farmers perhaps a century ago; the Oquirrh mountain range; cattle chewing mechanically on coarse grass. Continue reading