Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Journey Into Africa 1994: The Circle of Life

There was a hippo grazing on the lawn at Lake Naivasha
While we breakfasted.   Amazing sight to us, yet untamed
Another had charged and killed a guest a few weeks past.
So began the animal parade of life.

We traveled next to Masai Mara
Game Preserve home to animals large and small.
Game drive in the afternoon an introduction
To the Africa we came to see.

A cheetah seeking prey streaked comet-like before our eyes.
Lions in prides, Mama with her rough and tumble cubs
King of the animals nearby with gaze aloft.
We saw also male lions stalking water buffalo.

Two giraffes  necks intertwined were a-courting. Two elephants engaged in sex
Don’t ask me how. Mama elephants nursed their tiny, hungry off-spring
Officious-looking warthogs entertained trotting through the brush on private missions.
Thomas said they looked like messengers with their radio-antenna tails held aloft.

Vultures circling drew us to fresh kill
Food for meat eaters’ ravenous demands. After dinner
Hyenas and other scavengers appear. Nature’s sanitation crew
Leaves only bones and skulls far-flung on plains.

In the middle of the afternoon it rained
Followed by a rainbow arching high across gray sky.
Next day bright flowers bloomed where once brown grasses grew.
Bow and blossoms attesting to great life circle turning ’round.


Journey Into Africa 1994: Introducing the Human Characters

My travels in Kenya were characterized by an unexpected collection of people who gave the journey its unique flavor. Our tour group of seven, plus my former Pastor and his wife, was a revelation. I had figured there would be three couples and me. Instead I found myself one of a group of seven women. That was in 1994. Woman’s Lib as it was called back then was beginning to blossom. Maybe there were other female-only tour groups, but I wasn’t aware of any. This one occurred accidentally and I loved it!

Thomas, our guide, was the son of a Samburu hunter who taught him the ancient ways of tracking animals. He was overjoyed with the eight “mamas” he could show his beloved country to. We spent our nights in lodges located on several different game reserves, cocooned in mosquito nets to protect us from malaria. Before daylight and around four o’clock in the afternoon we went out on daily “game drives” in hopes of spotting animals in their habitats during their feeding times. Thomas drove us in a white diesel Toyota minivan with its top cut out so we could stand and get a 360 degree view. We were usually joined by several other groups staying at the lodge also riding in white Toyota open-topped minivans. When we saw  vans parked in a field near the road we knew there had to be animals somewhere. Guides called out to us what they had spotted and we joined the group. The animals were so accustomed to people in  minivans riding around every day they acted like we were just part of the scenery. There is a wonderful cartoon strip on Gary Larson’s Far Side picturing a couple of  minivans driving around and one animal saying to another one, “Convertible! Convertible!”


Haiku: Best Part Of Waking Up

Golden hour lasts
Barely fifteen minutes long.
Coffee jump-starts day.


Journey Into Africa 1994: Shadows and Reflections

Treetops – Bit of history
In shadow of old British Empire reach.
A King’s daughter was there when she got word
“The King is dead. Long live the Queen”.
She departed the second Queen Elizabeth.

Treetops – A watering hole
Inhabited from time out of mind.
Animal’s stately march to drumbeat of days
Learned before their birth. Nightly
Arrive at watering hole to quench thirst.

Travelers gather at nature’s old outpost
Fenced, high on stilts, safe from any harm.
We spend the night still dressed in our day clothes.
We wait like children expecting Santa Claus
To be awakened when the animals appear.

Before dawn. black night at their backs
Silently for animals so large they move.
Water buffalo circling the pond to drink
Form silhouettes of ancient rituals.
Newly arrived we present guests look on in awe.

Pink dawn fingers begin to part the night.
Shadows merge, become reflections on the pond.
We see more clearly majesty of beasts.
And wonder where we, architects of newer worlds
Fit in the grand scheme of things.


Journey Into Africa 1994: It All Began With Yes

In the spring of 1993 I was divorced, self-supporting and living alone. A Pastor from my former church had previously taken members of the congregation on a tour of Kenya which appealed to me greatly. I was working at that time to help out with the expenses of my children’s college education and was disappointed not to be able to join the group. Then in 1993 I received a letter from the Pastor inviting me to travel on a “Journey Into Africa” in January 1994. This time I had vacation days available and a small nest egg ear-marked for my old age. I decided that I would rather spend money now to see the wonders of Kenya than spend it on a retirement home in the distant future. I said “Yes”!

It had been twenty years since I last traveled out of the United States and I couldn’t wait to get started on a new adventure. The Pastor’s letter promised we would see:
– The river of crocodiles at your doorstep in Samburu National Reserve
– The elephant families watering below your balcony at midnight at Treetops
– Lion gazing over the vast reaches of the Serengeti in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve
– The snows of Kilimanjaro in the distance of Amboseli NationaL Park
– Hippos wallowing in the mud at Manyara
We saw them all – and much more.

It has now been twenty years since I traveled to Kenya. I have not forgotten those two weeks Kenya inhabited my soul. Kenya and its people, animals and night skies are permanently etched in my senses. The land of Africa is filled with spirit. I am very sure of that.


Pearls of Wisdom From My Grandchildren

I’m learning to know my grandchildren from inside out
They tell me what they feel and think, speak my language.
Connect us deeper than words in many ways.

Grandson twelve years old
Telling about pitching the winning strike-out
“I felt good about myself, knew I could do it,
And pitched with all my fierce competitive energy.”
His grin said it all.

Granddaughter almost nine years old
Showed me a huge bag of library books
Her summer reading project.
I asked how many books could be checked out at once.
“As many as I can carry and I’m very strong.”

First job – grandson sixteen years old –
A life guard who gives swimming lessons,too.
First pay check put a big smile on his face.
No one had to guess his sense of self
Had just gone through the roof.

Little brother – grandson thirteen years old
Clung to boyhood another year.
Went off to summer camp with friends
Will spend days sailing to his heart’s content.
He’ll get serious in another year.

Grandson – also twelve years old
Spent time last year in India, birth place of his mom.
I asked what part of his adventure meant most to him.
“India is fifty percent of me” was his reply.
Deep wisdom tells him who he is.

Granddaughter ten years old
Speaks with dancing feet.
Taps out rhythms on the wooden floor,
Floats with graceful ballerina arms
Reminds me of when I was a little girl.


Truth or Dare: Living Larger

What do I dare? Why my restless soul?
True I’ve made a new home, new friends. Life is good.
But I want to write a new script – to juxtapose.
I want some prose mixed with my poetic bent.
I want to tackle thorny challenges strewn on my path.
I want my Internet to work. And movies to stream.

I want to live larger. Paint my own canvas abstract and a little wild.
I want to throw caution to the winds at times and not worry about falling down.
(Well, there I think I’ll draw a line. I want to stick around.)
Yesterday a newspaper ad for a Smart TV screamed “Go for it”. I did.
It will arrive this week along with Geek Squad to hook things up.
Next week I’ll banish my old Internet provider, etc., and try U-Verse AT&T.


Family Connections

Family to me is an indefinable, inextinguishable feeling. It can be brought on by rummaging through old letters as I did recently. I found a note of congratulation for a long-ago milestone event from an uncle whom I loved as part of the family but don’t remember ever having a conversation with. I cherish the idea that he had thought of me. When I visited my son and his family a few weeks ago on the occasion of my grand daughter’s tenth birthday a similar epiphany occurred.

On the maternal side of my family my mother’s wedding veil became a family tradition. She wore it in 1927. Since then my two sisters and I, four cousins and my sister’s daughter have worn it. My daughter-in-law, the one I was visiting, is the first bride not descended from my mother to wear her veil. For years pictures of us cousins wearing the veil hung on the wall of my aunt’s staircase. I always said I wanted them when she died – and she remembered. They were with me for twenty years when I lived in a townhouse that had stairs for “the brides”. Now all nine of us hang in the mini-hallway of my small apartment. One sad note to my story is there is no picture of my mother wearing her veil.

There is another generation of brides descended from a cousin whose daughter and granddaughters have also worn my mother’s veil. Another set of pictures grace walls of their homes. My first cousin once removed (to be old-fashioned and proper) is making an album combining both sets of pictures. She asked all of us brides to send her a copy of our wedding photos. My daughter-in-law was in the midst of a stressful project at work and forgot to send hers. I volunteered to help her locate a photo while I was at her house visiting. Our going through her box of wedding memorabilia was a real moment of family bonding. Her mother, who died a few years ago, had created a wonderful book of wedding events which I took part in but had little memory of. Now we had fun reliving that remarkable wedding, including my son’s entrance accompanied by bagpipes. My mother’s veil trails behind many memories.

The day I mailed my daughter-in-law’s photo one of those serendipitous things happened that surely can’t be a coincidence. I discovered an object that connects my paternal family. In 1883 my grandfather started a small business making custom shirts which is still in existence and still run by descendants of his brother, a founding partner. A woman who is interested in the history of small family businesses has contacted cousins on my father’s side of the family for information. She was interested in any shirts or other things we might have collected and saved over the years. She emailed a picture of a shirt her husband had bought in 1974 showing the store’s label. I have a wooden coat hanger with the company’s name and address printed on it which has been in my family as long as I can remember. It’s probably seventy-five years old. I was excited to tell her about it. The woman replies to “all” in her emails and a cousin I haven’t seen since 1957 when he was ten years old picked up on my email. He replied that he had a coat hanger, too. He posted a picture of a coat hanger identical to mine except the placement of the company name and its address were reversed. A coat hanger is a humble object to connect a family, but it could be a seed of new growth in my family tree.


Ode To the Last Responders

After the quake rips through the earth
Gouging and splintering, leaving for dead
Hundreds of loved ones and home as they knew it.

After the ship falters and sinks
Flinging the desperately fleeing immigrants
Into the sea of no return.

After the plane plunges to earth
Flown by someone bent on destruction
Getting his wish. There are no survivors.

After the brutal devastation and horror
Grief overtakes those still alive
And us the world watching.

Then they appear to pick up the pieces
Like a Greek Chorus in yellow hazmat suits
Or red or white jumpsuits – the last responders.

Assembled to pull us back from the abyss
Bringing a semblance of order to chaos
They harvest the dead to be decently buried.

We do give them honor.


June 6: Ghost of An Anniversary

Washed up on the shore
Of Sea of Matrimony.
Natives friendly here.