Inching along on the interstate, traffic backed up for miles and miles, I drove so slowly that I could observe up close the scraggly sunflowers bending in the breeze. They were totally unaware of the total lack of merit of their surroundings, in the barren borrow pit between asphalt lanes. They simply shone, delighted to be.
on scraggly stalks
bob and weave
in the wind
in the brown grass borrow pit
heedless of the ugliness
joyous in any event
The night’s newly-fallen snow coaxed me into the canyon for a solitary hike. As I trudged along, often sinking up to my knees, I tried to focus upward on the beauty around me. But I have noticed how often I focus downward on the trail and miss seeing that beauty. This poem is about perspective, about looking up to see and to have our soul enriched and uplifted.
this precarious trail
I am guilty
of looking always down
at the rocks and roots
that would send me sprawling,
I am missing it:
streaks of Tanager and Goldfinch
leaves green upon green
Oregon grape blossoms: yellow cream
orange-lichened branches arching over
blue sky above
this Black-capped Chickadee
sings to me
demanding I stop
insisting I look up
to see her
to see the world
and I invite her to come into me
and to fly around freely in my soul
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.
(Belted Kingfisher by Caleb Baker-2015)
Driving to church one morning, I noticed a Belted Kingfisher perched on an electric wire suspended over Stansbury Lake. What a strikingly beautiful bird. I wondered about his perspective on the world from that perch. All through church I thought more about the kingfisher and what he saw than I did about the sermons and what they taught. I wondered what he saw, what he felt, what he thought about, what it must be like to dive like a missile into the water, then rise with a writing minnow. Sitting in my pew I wrote this poem. My family thought I was taking copious notes on the sermons. (Thanks to my son Caleb for this excellent drawing of a Belted Kingfisher. The smudge is from the best of many scans, not his pencil).
watching from your high-wire perch,
looking down upon the world,
upon the water—
what is it that you see?
diving from your elevated view,
a yellow-beaked torpedo—
what was it that you saw?
fluffing your feathers dry,
back at your vigilance place,
the minnow having slid down your gullet—
what was it that it saw?
flying on your blues and blacks from your high-wire perch
into the nook of a sheltering tree,
the waning sun still warming—
what will you see tomorrow?
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.)
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.
–I got up.–
–I got up who?–
(Hyrum-4 with Dad)
Despite the bright blue sky and the sun’s brilliance dazzling from millions of ice crystals in the fresh skiff of snow, I felt crushed by life’s burdens as I trudged alone along Rabbit Lane. The burdens of being a husband and provider and father to seven children. The burdens of being legal counsel to a busy, growing city. The burdens of maintaining a home, of participating in my church, and of being scoutmaster to a local boy scout troop. The burdens of being human. While the sky above me opened wide to space, these responsibilities bore down heavily upon my heart. They seemed to darken my very sky. Continue reading
Walking on a downtown Salt Lake City street during a seminar lunch break, I became aware of how my gaze tended to turn downward on the trash that had collected in the gutter. The words “trash” and “gutter” are well-known and perhaps over-used metaphors for the vulgar and profane. I wondered, with some private embarrassment, why I persisted in looking downward instead of lifting my gaze to the trees, birds, architecture, and sky. I wrote this poem to recognize and resist the temptation to look downward during life, and to encourage myself and others to raise our sights and to focus on beauty, on love, and on kindness and other noble attributes. The gutter and its trash will still be there, but we need pay them no mind.
TURN TO THE GUTTER
Birds sing a-wing
in the ocean-blue sky,
perch on arched windows
and brick parapets.
Trees waive and bow,
flowers show splendor.
I turn my gaze, and
I turn to the gutter,
lies and tokens, and
miss it all.