Tag Archives: Friendship

Courage at Twilight: My Friend Primus

I met Primus Butler in 2007 as he walked 20 miles with a cane across the Tooele Valley, and we became friends. Primus was born with a form of muscular dystrophy.  As he explained to me, the left side of his brain is highly developed, while the right side has the faculty of an eight-year-old.  Thus disabled, he reads voraciously, completing his five thousandth book this year.  And I’m not talking Hardy Boys, but long and complex works of non-fiction, like Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.  He rates and lists every book—a select few he finds “indispensable.”  He can discourse for hours about history, politics, biography, religion, and world civilizations.  He earned a degree in Bible and Christian Education from Central Bible College in Springfield Missouri.  And he is a writer.  His first published book is entitled, Heroes of Hope, a collection of 52 biographical sketches of men and women whom Primus considers to have “changed the world by daring to hope.”  (See the Xulon Press bookstore.)  Mom and I each bought a first edition.  Once every month or two I take pizza or fried chicken and Coke to Primus’ house to catch up and talk about whatever interesting subjects cross our minds.  Primus does most of the talking because, well, he knows most of the information.  I called him to tell him I had moved from the valley and would not be able to see him as often, but that I would stop by from time to time.  He did not betray any sadness.  But we have become friends, and I will keep in touch.  Primus is preparing his second book for publication: 52 sketches of his Heroes of Love.

Courage at Twilight: Garden Party

Mom received an invitation from one of the women of the Church.  It was fancy, with vinery winding around the pretty graphics and text.  An invitation to a Relief Society Garden Party.  The Relief Society, established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842, and reestablished in 1868 after the “Mormons” were driven from Missouri and Illinois into the wilds of Utah Territory, created a “temporal and spiritual ministry” by which the frontier pioneer women cared for each other, Church members and not.  The Relief Society organization, tradition, and mission thrives today, both with weekly meetings and countless acts of ministering to one another by over seven million women—a great worldwide sisterhood.  And here was the Garden Party, 179 years on, with 60 neighborhood women converging on the designated garden.  I dropped Mom off at the driveway and watched her gather with the welcoming throng.  She beamed as she walked through the front door three hours later, happy, refreshed, built up by camaraderie and love.  Dinner had consisted of a huge salad bar spread over several tables, plus one for desserts.  She loved visiting with the women, her sisters, and particularly enjoyed those who beamed cheer despite personal hardship.  For that is what we do: we take what comes and help each other through with smiles on our faces, sustained by a faith that all will work out in the end.

A Portrait of Sunshine as a Young Dragon

Sunshine began his life of friendship with Amy just seven months ago as a tiny young lizard.  Now he is in full adolescence, and still calm, patient, and pleasant.  Amy thought a portrait of her friend was in order.  Here is her first “peek-a-boo” angle.

And now, Sunshine’s full-color portrait, drawn expertly by Amy.  In Portuguese one would say, “Tal e qual,” meaning “Exactly so.”  Great work, Amy!

Sunshine Is Growing Up Beautifully!

In just six months, Sunshine has grown from a rather drab little pointy creature to a beautifully-hued growing pointy creature.  (Keep those crickets coming!)  Sunshine is as gentle as ever, and she and Amy remain the best of friends.

Baby Sunshine

Growing Sunshine, with Bracelet

Amy and Sunshine: “Buds and Pards Forever”

Hello, Harrold Lewis

A friend of mine told me today about how, whenever she visits a cemetery to pay her respects to her departed loved ones, she always seeks out the tombstone of a random stranger, with whom she stands and converses for a moment, honoring his or her memory and life, though she does not know them.  How sweet of her, I thought.  How noble and kind and good.  As I considered whether a poem might be hiding in that scene, the name Harrold Lewis appeared in my thoughts (I do not know a Harrold Lewis), followed by the images and sounds of a fictional cemetery encounter between an old British seafarer and a deceased whaling colleague (the motif thanks to my currently reading Melville’s Moby Dick).  Story, memory, friendship–such powerful, enduring themes living inside us all.

HELLO, HARROLD LEWIS

Hello, Harrold Lewis.
How fare ye this day?
Does the climate suit ye?
No scabies or scurvies?
The cook makes a good biscuit?
I see your stone has tipped a bit
more since last I came.
I cannae fix that,
but I’ll clip the vines and grass away,
and I’ll scrub the soot from your face.
Born 1776? July 4?
That be a good year, matie, a good year.
Thar be many a notice the day o’ your comin’,
to be sure. Quite a celebrity,
ye were! Harrold Lewis,
where do ye go from here?
How shall ye sail?
Gone sailin’ to a distant shore!
be more than words ‘graven o’ your grave.
Methinks ye be standin’ o’ the cross trees,
leanin’ o’er the wide blue,
sweet breath o’ the world in your hair,
searchin’, searchin’, a’crying’
“Thar she blows!”

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure 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.

Silver Cross

Truly special gifts come but rarely in one’s lifetime, and expected even less.  What was my surprise, then, to receive in the mail, from another continent, across an ocean, the gift of a small silver cross.  It hung for years from my friend’s neck where, she said, it would always stay.  And now it sat in the palm of my hand.  A precious heirloom, and a friend I will never met: the stuff of poetry.

SILVER CROSS

You wore the little silver cross,
not one inch tall,
on a silver chain
against the swell of your breast.
Where you got it
I never knew.
You wore it,
you told me,
for those you have loved, and have lost,
for those you wished to protect:
you wore it for me.
I never take it off,
you declared.

That same cross,
small and silver,
you have sent, now,
to me–
an ocean away, a continent away, a universe away–
to wear,
cool on my chest,
for those I have loved, and have lost,
for those I wish to see protected,
To give you a precious thing of mine,
you offered,
and, perhaps, to say
good-bye.
I wear the cross
for you.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure 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.

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.

Wood Pens by Hyrum

Hyrum (15–one of the four Baker brothers) has become quite the woodworker, taking advanced wood-shop and furniture-making in high school.  Today a good friend taught Hyrum to turn wood pens on a lathe.  Hyrum started from 1×1 square scrap lumber rescued from the trash can: cedar heart; walnut; wormy maple.  He drilled the correct diameter hole in the wood blank with a drill press.

After drilling, he glued and inserted the metal tube into the blank.  When the glue cured, he “squared” the ends with a reamer, making the blank ends truly perpendicular to the blank length.  With the preparations over, it was time to turn the wood on the lathe, transforming the square blank into a perfect round.  Using a wood turning gouge and chisel, Hyrum slowly took off the corners of the square, taking the now-round wood blank down to the desired diameter and even with the bushings at either end.

The blank cut to the right size and shape, it was time to make it shine!  First came the sandpaper: 150 grit; 400 grit; then 800 grit.  Finally, steel wool.

Then Hyrum rubbed into the wood, turning at high speed, five coats of walnut oil mixed with wax.

The finished blank came alive and sparkled with natural beauty!

With the wood finished, it was ready to be assembled with the parts of the pen kit for the final pen product.  Hyrum can’t wait to make more beautiful wood pens, and plans to show them soon on his new Etsy account.

Hyrum and I are very grateful to our friend, Paul, for teaching us a new skill.

For more Baker brothers woodcraft, see the Woodcraft page of this Blog and click on any link.

Impressions of Erda and Enterprise

I visited recently with my good friends Harvey and Mary Russell at their home in Enterprise, Utah.  I had not seen them for years.  Harvey, my humble hero, is a leading figure in my nonfiction book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  Named “Many Feathers” by American Indians, Harv helped me build my chicken coop and lead me through an Indian sweat ceremony in Erda, Utah.  My impressions during the visit were poignant and bitter-sweet, demanding expression in this impressionistic poem.

IMPRESSIONS OF ERDA AND ENTERPRISE

Car window down:
“Is this Harvey’s place?”
A wave to drive in, and smiles:
three mechanics, brown
where I should have seen white:
lost their teeth to the chew.

Engine block rocks
from its rolling crane.
“You’re the one that wrote the book?”
“And you write poems, too?”
“Yea,” I said, “but
I don’t know a spark plug
from a distributor cap,
like you!”

That storm broke branches off
Harv’s old elm. “Shall I cut them
small for the stove, or long
for the truck bed to the dump?”
“Oh, it’s not your mess—
long for the dump.” I cut them
short for next winter’s warming.

Neighbors burning winter’s detritus,
wind-lopped limbs, old stumps.
Pleasant smell of woody smoke.
The whole family shovels
manure over the garden plot;
rich, dry, composted;
like I used to do, before.

Perfect pens for homers,
robust cocks chortling in one,
slighter hens in the other.
At 79, he still races.

“When he finally left,
he took everything, even
the lightbulbs and toilet seat.”

Worn brown leather boots
on the workbench
by the big rusty drill press,
under dust.

“Will you keep an eye on my place Harv?”
“pow pow pow!”
Ducks falling from the sky,
poached from his neighbor’s pond.

“pow pow pow!”
Geese poached from the sky.
“But I called this time;
they think they own all the birds
in the whole country.”

Old Ekins took
their guns, their geese.
One protested: “Too late:
the goose is in the oven.
Sunday dinner!”
Said Old Jim: “Not too late:
take the Sunday goose out!”

Eight hens scratch in the grass,
keep him in eggs.
Two roosters corral and crow.
Ducks waddle where they will.

The garden tool shed:
a secret privy, with shovel and hoe.
“Toss in a cup of wood stove ash.”
(The neighbors, they don’t know.)

Lilac bushes, just leafing,
a long arcing row
next the dirt drive;
promising purple perfume.

Flapjacks browned on cast iron;
butter; blueberries; pure maple syrup;
my first goat milk, creamy and sweet.

Crazy Cliff dragged a trailer house
up a Skull Valley mountain
with a rickety track hoe; by some miracle
the belcher didn’t topple over backwards.

A lightning bolt split:
two fires funneling down
to that trailer. A bomber dropped
red retardant dust,
panicked mustangs plunging through.

Mother made Mary
give away her baby;
only 15. She married
the man at 16, and met
her first-born son 49 years late.

Brussels and yams
roasted soft
in olive oil and herbs;
fresh bread and pot roast.

Third and fourth marriages
for both: married twice
to each other: “We just drifted
apart, until God brought us
back together.”

“Living with someone is just
hard, rubbing and bumping
against each other.”

“He kissed me
tenderly
on the cheek.”

Harvey, Mary, and Roger

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.

Worthy

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“I am worthless,” my friend sighed to me.  “Oh, no,” I urged, “you are so worthy, so deserving.”  My friend wanted to believe, but could not.  “You are worthy,” I insisted again.  This poem declares your worthiness:

WORTHY

I AM:

rocks and ice in frozen space:

I AM:

dazzling beacons of pulsing proton beams:

I AM:

rainbow clouds, glowing, brilliant, birthing billions of bright suns:

I AM:

gold dust, iron dust, plutonium dust, the stuff of supernova stars:

I AM:

volcanoes bursting liquid stone to the skies, hot and hissing:

I AM:

waters of life, boiling and crystalline, flowing, flowing:

I AM:

the breath of God:

I AM.