Thoughts on New Year’s Day


16 degrees, windchill 2, flurries.

Keep warm, reflect, remember, don’t relive,

forgive, move on.

Work hard to become the change you want to see worldwide:

-Empathy

-Kindness

-Love

-Patience

-Understanding

 

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The Christmas Tree


In childhood, no fake tree for us.

Just after Thanksgiving, the family search transpired.

Mom and Dad preferred Douglas fir, six feet tall.

Dutifully, we kept the tree holder filled with water,

never used real candles.  We put on lights, big ones,

blue, green, red, an inch long, then carefully hung on delicate,

colorful, round balls.  The most difficult task: the icicles,

long, silver, reflective.  They had to go on just so.

Years later, children gone, Mom and Dad bought an

artificial tree, fake Douglas fir, incredibly real in appearance.

 

When they left Missouri for Arizona every winter after harvest,

they abandoned Christmas trees, gave me the fake Douglas fir.

I still have it.  How long?  Decades, several at least.  State of the art

when they bought it, it requires work, assembly, strings of lights.

Every year, I tell myself it is time to get one of those new trees with lights

already installed, so much easier to take up and down.  I never buy one.

I cannot bear to part with Mom and Dad’s tree.  One year, annoyed with

putting on lights, I decorated it lightless.  I missed the lights.  Now every year,

decades later, I assemble it, take the time to string the lights.  Some of the lower

branches no longer stay, but I work around that, hang the colorful, delicate

Christmas ornaments I love, collected over years and years, wrap the base in

the red and white cloth given to me from Africa. On cold evenings, like this one,

I turn off the other lights, drink tea like my mother did, and remember my

childhood.

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My Mother–Barbie Doll


Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mother’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one and nothing.”  They married late:  34 and 38.  He adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love, cornfields, hay rides,      books, ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed, I was going to possess:  piano lessons, a college education.  Her father, who died long before I was born, loved                 fancy, fast horses.  So did she.  During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing with stories of run aways horses pulling her in a wagon.      With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them,               a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.

Note:  this poem is in my book “On the Rim of Wonder” and was also recently published in “Inside and Out”, a collection of writings by women.  It is available on Amazon and published by the Story Circle Network.

Addendum:  My mother loved horses and flowers.  When I look at the flowers around my house I think of my mother.  And, yes, I have horses.  The following photos are dedicated to my mother’s memory.

 

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My mother’s mother and father.

 

Unconditional Love


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All the beautiful flowers I see today, Mother’s Day 2017, make me think of my mother.  She loved flowers, especially roses, horses, music, beauty.  When I think of her, I also think of unconditional love.  Even when young and I sometimes thought she expected too much of me, I still knew she loved me no matter what the circumstances and always would.  For this I feel unending gratitude.  As a teacher, it has become very clear to me that many children do not experience the kind of love my mother gave me.  She died suddenly many years ago.  Her love will never leave me.  Thank you, Mom, wherever you are!!

A Week of Wonder and Flowers


 

This past week was my birthday.  The wonder started a week ago when my friends came for dinner and my friend’s father, visiting from Mexico. brought me red roses.  I had not seen my friends in a long time and it was fun.  Then on Sunday, Roberto, the father, and I went hiking in Palo Duro Canyon on a new trail.  I never saw a name for it.

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We found this trail by starting at Chinaberry (for those who go to the Canyon), taking Comanche Trail up to this new trail.  When they intersect, we went north rather than south on Comanche.

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If you read the previous blog in December about hiking Comanche, you saw this peak but from the center and to the south.  This is a view from the north looking south.

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Eventually, after hiking up and down across an arroyo, you end up above the river which looks tiny here, but when a big rain comes, it can rise many feet in a few hours.  It was very sunny, I had a hard time focusing so occasionally a finger got in the way.

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Roberto has a funny sense of humor.  He could not resist pretending to hold up one of the many giant boulders along the trail.

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This is not a difficult walk and not too long if you only have a few hours.  We came across a group of wild turkeys, but they moved so much, I was unable to get a good photo so gave up.

Wednesday was my birthday.  It began with my first period class–I teach senior high school English.  They showered the room with confetti, brought me a giant chocolate muffin with a candle in the middle, lit the candle and sang me Happy Birthday.  Then during second period, two of my students arrived with two bouquets of flowers.  The room smelled wonderful for three days.  I brought the flowers home yesterday in a big box.

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My grandson told the florist to make me a giant bouquet with exotic flowers.  This is one side of it.  Orchids, roses, hydrangeas, and some really unusual flowers which I cannot identify.

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This is the other side of the same bouquet.

This bouquet is from my son.  He knows my favorite color is orange and that I have a lot of that color in my house so….

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I am seriously nerdy and asked for an atlas for my birthday.  My daughter outdid herself and bought this one full of all sorts of information I never expected and maps.  I love maps.  When I read a book from Latin America, Africa, etc., I look up the places on maps.

Last night I sang songs, using the poems of Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda among others, with the Amarillo Master Chorale in a church with perfect acoustics for choral music.  Tonight I will see friends at an opera party.  What a wonderful week!!

I Watched Movers Box Up a Life


Saturday, February 18, 2017

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

When our daughter and I cleaned out the refrigerator, we found a large pot filled with egusi stew, remnants of the last meal he cooked. I took the footlong, hand carved, wooden spoon, scraped the dry bits clinging to the sides of the silver pot.  Scrubbing it clean, smells of memory flooded my nostrils–cayenne, bitter leaves. It took me ten minutes, ten memory laden minutes.  Even after scrubbed and dried, the pot’s cayenne smell filled my nostrils, the distinct smell of West African food.

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

Our daughter and I found papers and photos, items her father kept all these years, detailed memories of our life together.  I could barely look at them, throat constricting, tears welling in the eyes of this woman who never cries.  Our daughter, dismayed, told me to go outside.  I walked down the quiet street, brown leaves scattered from autumn, unraked, a strange street both urban and rural inside a city of nearly half a million residents.  Is this where he walked, attempting to improve his health?  Was I walking in his footsteps?

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

Commit Random Acts


This speaks for itself.

I am one voice,
but I will not be complicit,
compliant,
quiet.

For every word of hate,
I’ll speak LOVE

For every swastika,
I’ll sign PEACE

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For every belief outlawed,
every book burned,
every person
mocked,
marginalized,
belittled,
bullied…

I’ll commit
random acts of
WRITING and ART,
shout
COMPASSION
and KINDNESS
from rooftops!

Poem + Artwork ©2016, Jen Payne

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I Have a Dream


Fifth-three years ago today Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most inspiring and telling speeches ever given by a person from this country.  Today I listened to a young man, Patrick Miller, a middle school teacher here in Amarillo, give this same speech totally from memory with no notes.  I feel saddened at the extent to which King’s speech still rings true, that although we have progressed tremendously, people of African descent and others of color still experience prejudice at so many levels in their lives, frequently on a daily basis.

Here I offer other quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, “What are you doing for others?”

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.  There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.  When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.  

“All Children Are Our Children” by Carol P. Christ


This is a rather long read the gist of which is this: what if “we were taught to love and nurture and be generous to others” and these were the primary values in the world rather than the current values. “What if we were taught to open our hearts to the world? Would domination, violence, and war be possible?”

Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultion“All children are our children.” As I was posting my recent blog about the shooting of black men by the police, these words came into my mind with the force of revelation. At the time I was looking at a photograph of Philando Castile, taken at his place of work. Yes, I thought, my heart opening: “he is my child too.” This widening of the heart is at the center of the maternal values of ancient and contemporary matriarchal cultures around the world. It is a feeling some of us who were mothered well enough or who mothered children—including children not our own—carry within us. Is this the healing balm our world needs today?

Maternal  values?  So many of us turn up our noses at such a “gendered” term. Perhaps we were not mothered enough in our families of origin. Perhaps we still feel un-mothered. Perhaps we don’t want…

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Water Messages


In the process of conducting research for another poetry book, I came across this information.  Dr. Masaru Emoto authored “The Hidden Messages in Water”.  This is a quote of his from a book by Doreen Virtue:  “Both love and gratitude together are very powerful, and the union of both vibrations creates the best and most beautiful crystals.  I believe that H2O stands for two parts gratitude and one part love.  This is the most powerful formula of all.”

When water was shown a photo of a dolphin, the crystals changed.  In the middle of the crystals was a shape.  It looks like a photo of the pineal gland.  For some this is the shape behind the third eye.