On the morning following the sudden and senseless gun battle in West Oakland that left eight people, including three children, wounded by bullets, a thick grey fog rolled in, obliterating any horizon line and settling all edges. As I walked through that morning fog, all the sea disappeared into sky. I did not despair its leaving. I was grateful for the gentle grey erasing all distance and providing an evenness that returned small things, like rocks and tiny shorebirds, to a distinct and welcomed clarity. I needed the specificity and I also wanted world to wrap me, hold me, and hoped for the sky to descend, offer new breath welcoming and close. The fog did just that.
As I walked, I looked into the strange completeness of the fog and thought about the woman and baby not yet two years old lying in critical condition in separate hospitals; the baby with a gunshot wound to his head. He may not recover, but we are all hoping he will. The helplessness of that left me breathless, gasping in great draughts of fog and sea air. I thought about the young men acting badly, firing guns repeatedly and thoughtlessly at a peaceful crowd of men, women, and children, and the wrongness of that forced me to exhale, rapidly. I leaned down, picked up a small stone, and hurled it as far as I could into the bay. I heard it splash but I never saw it fall.
The fog ate it.
We so frequently say of those who are lost, those who have strayed to violence, that their brains are foggy, they are lost in a fog, but I think it might be more accurate to say that their hearts and minds are polluted by decay and misery, made heavy by hate. They are overwhelmed by smog rather than fog. Fog heals; fog nurtures flowers, feeds moss and grass. Smog eats metal, soils glass, corrodes plastics, causes cancers in hearts and minds.
When seabirds swim in oily seas, their wings grow heavy and they can no longer fly. When young men live congested lives, surrounded by violence and decay, that pollution sticks to their skin as readily as crude oil clings to feathers. That's the oily smog that collapses their hearts and steals their breath, keeps them attached to hard metal violence, loving guns rather than flesh.
I wonder, longingly and stupidly perhaps, if those gun-toting maniacs were to walk instead in blue morning fog, feel its breath, hear the splintered cries of seabirds, could they feel the weight and grace of innocence? Could they give up their guns?
The earth heals in ways beyond analysis. I know this not only because I walk daily near salt water, passing under great trees and skies alive with birds, but because I have memories of other years spent in other inner cities almost as violent as Oakland.
When my sons were small, we lived in South Brooklyn, where there were many suffering from smoggy brains and collapsed hearts, where streets were littered with trash, crack vials and discarded needles, and nights were bursting with gunfire.
Sometimes, when the surrounding violence and decay became too sharp to bear, we would leave town for a day, drive north to still wild woods of High Tor, park our car behind some bush and walk along the narrow and overgrown path that zigged and zagged under trees to the bald granite mountaintop. Then, we could stand tall, look up to clouds, down to freight trains, the size of toys, chugging along the riverbank below as equally small sailboats flew across the wide belly of the Hudson river, imagine the trains with steam engines pulling carloads of pioneers and the sailboats as ocean going schooners tacking across a current, pulling them out to sea. Standing there in the wind, staring across miles, we remembered how to dream, and when we returned to the inner city, we carried with us bits of the forest -- colored leaves, flowers, rocks -- and gathered bits of our imagined dreams.
If we could imagine sailboats as schooners, turn diesel train engines into black-throated beauties billowing steam, we could certainly imagine worlds without war, days without guns, mornings rich with laughter, night warm with love. Those days on the mountain gave us back our hearts, revived our faith in our own ability to imagine better worlds.
A healthy society is one that celebrates and encourages imagination, and when winter arrives, we need our imagination more than ever. When light disappears into foggy dawns and dusky afternoons, we may be left with leafless trees and shadowless shores, but if we close our eyes and dream, that dreaming can pin leaves on branches, refill the skies with light. It may sound corny but when the season is at its darkest, when life seems dismal, when unhappiness overwhelms, we can imagine the return of the light, replace shadow with sparkle, encourage joy. If we are what we think, if we imagine our future, I want to think peace, imagine a world without guns.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, as have days of rain, which fortunately coincided with those times when we were all inside feasting, dreaming, and thinking. At first, I was so busy cooking and scribbling lists of all that makes me thankful (electricity and hot water are high on that list but below friends and family) that I never noticed that the rain would keep me from walking for hours in the park. Then, we were all so busy tasting and enjoying slow roasted turkey, baked yams, and four kinds of pie, I found couldn't walk after all. I just had to lie back and breathe, digest my food and my happiness.
This morning with my house empty once again and the day dripping with fog, I returned at last to the park. Even before setting foot on the path, I came upon these overnight mushroom blooms in the small strip of green just off the parking lot. I have no idea what kind of mushrooms they are, and if you do, write me. They might be edible Honey mushrooms, Armillaria spp., but they might also be Pholiota mutabilis, looking like a honey mushroom but with a rather nasty taste. Then again, they might be overgrown and very large Flammulina velutipes or Collybia or some form of Gymnopilus.
The point is, I guess, I don't really know, and as I have already walked with Death after an experience with wild mushrooms, I didn't pick them. I just stopped and admired the sudden beauty of this exuberant display.
To pinch even one mushroom from the cluster seemed wrong. To see the cluster as yet untouched and untroubled seemed a gift, Such unexpected beauty is rare. Already nearby were clusters that had been trampled and kicked.
Below is a close up of the larger, and I think, older cluster. These mushrooms are sprouting on soil resulting from the breakdown of years of redwood chips, layered lovingly beneath the grasses and the shrubs. I suppose the chips suppress the weeds but feed the mushroom spores.
I looked for fairies, but saw none.
If these mushrooms were too congested, too fast-growing to provide shelter for green-winged fairies intent on magical transformation, the recent rain encouraged other more robust communities of mushrooms that grew as large and as fast but did provide shelter -- not for the winged forest folk but for more determined city folk intent on creating change, not with magical spells or herbal concoctions but with sober words, carefully painted in large letters on canvas facing Martin Luther King, Jr Way at the Occupy site in Berkeley.
Defend Public Education. No Student Fee Increases. Disclose the Budget. No Layoffs. No Furloughs. Democratize the Regents. No Paycuts for Salaries less than 40, 000.
Words that make a great deal of sense and are as specific and as fertile as any mushroom spore can be.
Berkeley Occupy, MLK Way
November is closing. Thanksgiving is upon us. Helicopters are hovering still.
Artist Ezra Li Eismont reminds us that the one landscape we can safely and truly occupy is our mind. Why just set up tents in abandoned lots when you can instead erect the mental architecture capable of supporting all that is needed for a more egalitarian society. . .
Think responsibly. Act compassionately.
Ezra Li Eismont, Polk St, San Francisco
Move out of Zombie Nation.
Discover the conversation.
Wall Space, Hemlock St, San Francisco
I am grateful for those who make art in public spaces.
Last evening I had the good fortune to serve as an usher at SF's Yerba Buena Novellus Theatre
for Krissy Keefer's Dance Brigade
who offered its audience a most dynamic performance that left us all feeling grateful, giddy with hope and good humor. They will be performing again this evening (Nov 19) and tomorrow afternoon. Show up! The tickets are free.
You heard that right, free,
passed out on the day of the concerts. Reservations are
recommended (general admission), call 415-273-4633, especially after last nights remarkable performance.
I urge you to participate in this wonderful and joyful community event that discusses through art, dance, and sharp humor both our contemporary troubles and the joyful spirit of community that sustains us all. I might even venture to suggest that it might be life-changing. It was -- in a way -- for me. I don't ordinarily discuss the many events I attend around town, but I am happy to mention this exuberant performance, hoping that others will attend. I also want to make note of an odd event that happened to me last evening, how the kindness of a stranger renewed my faith in human beings and made me aware that a seamless transference of positive energies that can happen if one remains open, aware, and available to the currents of the universe.
I lost my cellphone, dropped it somewhere in theatre, sometime during the 2 hour performance.When I realized it was gone
, my heart sank. I had bought my smartphone for very little money and as I have had it for almost three years, it is now chock full of notes, photos, addresses etc. I can't afford to buy a new phone at today's prices, didn't want to start again, reviewing plans, phones etc. I didn't expect to get it back; folks are being mugged these days for their cellphones, but when I got home, I called my phone and surprisingly a young woman answered; Shawn said she had found my phone and would return it.After hanging up the phone, I thought w
hat might I give this kind stranger in return for her kindness. I closed my eyes and saw this beautiful dress, made for me in Yola, Nigeria (pictured). There was something in this young woman's voice that made me think -- this dress is not for me; it is hers.
To make a long story short, this morning I walked down to the West Oakland Bart, dress in hand, and met Shawn. One look told me that the dress would indeed look better on her than on me, and when I asked her if she might accept it, she smiled and told me that she was a member of Oakland's dynamic collective Sistahs of the Drum
, a group that performs contemporary spirit through and within traditional West African rhythms. They perform always in West African Dress. I didn't know that before meeting her; our conversation had been brief, limited to time and place. How happy I am that t
his dress, lovingly and carefully made in Nigeria, that I carried back to San Francisco only to hang unused for years in my closet had finally found its rightful home. The kindness of strangers.
Another shooting yesterday. This one at the Haas school of Business on the UC-Berkeley campus. And then at the other end of the day, a friend who was involved in a serious car accident learns from a cop in a passing patrol car that stops only briefly that neither he nor any other policeman has the time to make a report. Not now. Too much else going on to pay attention to traffic accidents. Exchange information, call the station tomorrow or file a report online. He has to shout to be heard over the barking of a very large Alsatian shepherd who leaps against the mesh-covered open window of the back seat. No assistance from the police but the tow-truck driver who arrives shortly thereafter is kind. Despite the violence, despite the tensions, always there is kindness.
Rusting trees in Lakeside Park
I go for a long walk in the park and watch the autumn leaves falling and think about the nearly 200 emergency calls that have gone unanswered in recent days. I think of my friend sitting alone, shaking, her car totaled.
More than leaves are turning rusty red, falling, and blowing into dusty piles. All those neat little hinges holding society together, keeping things flexible, are freezing or flaking, and the doors are falling off their jambs.
But still there is beauty, and beauty lets me breathe. I walk and snap pictures of rosy leaves, but when I see the photos, I think of Wim Wenders' 1974 film Alice in the Cities, a moving film about human kindness, the kindness of strangers. A journalist suffering from writing block stops jotting notes and starts to snap Polaroid photos. As he watches a photo develop, he says that the picture can't show what he sees. I feel the same when I look at my photos. I can't capture the wide sweep of the sky, the inexplicable brilliance of the leaves gone suddenly red or orange, the pungent aroma of oak leaves already on the ground.
grape vines, claret red
I can, however, step outside into gold sun and walk past the curtains of ruby red grape leaves, through piles of drying leaves. I can get lost in all that -- for a while anyway. The sound of crunching leaves underfoot erases memories of sudden gunfire. The smells of damp earth and new decay recall other autumns elsewhere when whole mountains went overnight from placid green to fancy dress, looking suddenly like harlequins patched red and gold.
As children, we would rake up huge piles of leaves, great masses of color, and then fall on those piles, always thinking that the leaves would catch us, support us as a pillow might but always we were surprised when the hard ground caught us first. But no matter. We came up laughing, bright leaves in our hair and sprouting from sweaters, jackets, jeans and then danced about like living breathing laughing trees. Such happiness is necessary as days grow shorter and winds colder.
Alameda shore, morning sun
As winter arrives and cities grow ever more explosive, as confrontations increase, as folks cover their faces with bandanas and scream at strangers, I want to know why, of course. I want to think of potential solutions, of course, but I also want to see the beauties of the world and know the grace of human kindness. I don't necessarily want to depend on the kindness of strangers, but I want to know of its existence, to feel it as beauty. To hear the music of beauty of the natural world, beauty in human life, is to feel kindness, to taste grace. If the world as we know it is to end, I want to be sitting at the edge of the sea, my arms open to sun and sky, welcoming beauty into my heart.
From Wordsworth Tintern Abbey:
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration: -- feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.
Yesterday, Occupy: Oakland was cleared away. Today, high above the street camped in a tree, one person Zachary Running Wolf, remains . . .
But what else remains floating around the plaza, the city, the nation? All the difficulties, all the unfairness, the inequities, the misery.
Do something, Washington D.C.
Start by revising the tax code so that richest 1% and the corporations pay their fair share, forgive student loans, fund public education, ensure health care for all. Stop pandering to corporations and the insurance industry. Regulate the insurance industry. Cap corporate salaries. Start thinking sanely and compassionately about the health, education, and welfare of all Americans.
Zachary Running Wolf, once a candidate for the mayor of Berkeley, up a tree
Two Ends of One Day
In pre-dawn hours, in creased blue light, lodgers
at the Occupy: Oakland site are swept away,
the tents removed. Police wearing gloves
collect supplies, now classed as trash, toss
it all in garbage trucks. Midday, my dog
eyes red squirrels chittering in cork trees.
I keep my eyes focused on the farthest shore,
my heart on sea birds atop the air, wanting
to erase the pain lodged inside of knowing.
When home again, I try for hours to tape
together a book that opens with a raid
of a homeless encampment beneath a bridge,
the shooting death of a giant iguana chained
to a cinderblock under a tree, unable to run away.
My dog chewed the book while I was out.
I hadn’t finished reading. I can rescue most of it
but twenty pages – no doubt the hinge that swings
the story out and in – are gone, digested
I’m sure. If I continue reading, I will be guessing,
walking around that gaping hole. I put aside
the tape and go outside to the slant sun, work
an hour or so in the back garden, quiet now
in dim November days, cooler, damper. I trim
the thick-stemmed top-heavy stick collards, fill
the dog-dug hole in the strawberry bed, drag
the trimmings to the compost heap, and then
drive again to the shore to walk as the sun
veils the mountains in glow shell pink, skins
the sea to raw electric blue tipped with gold.
I return, driving past the muddied plaza, the erased
camp, the gathering crowds, and sit with others
in a room high above the street, speaking of war
and books and dream. Gunshots below interrupt,
then brittle lights and sirens. I step outside
and find myself standing on a frail place, knowing
if I take one more step, the earth will break
and I will fall not to the ground but upward
into the dark outside the stars.
Something's gone awry at Oakland: Occupy. I feel it the minute I approach the perimeter. I see it in the faces of those who stand at that perimeter looking on, reaching out or standing glumly, hands in pockets. If this encampment is erased -- and it seems it will be; two notices of eviction have been served -- Frank Ogawa Plaza will not be as easily tidied as when the first camp was removed.
a tent city settling into the mud
Some tents have already been dismantled and removed, and some of those that remain have been sprayed with black spray paint: 'MOB TENT.' Getting kinda crazy like something’ bout to jump off, man we bout ready to mob out. .
. Maybe. Maybe not.
The ending will not be easy, I'm afraid. Those to whom I spoke did not suggest that they would not go easily or peaceably. Let 'em try
, one said, you'll see, you'll see. Ain't goin' easy, not me
. No amount of coaxing, no generous smiles, could convince him to elaborate beyond a tight-lipped hard-eyed stare.
The once green grass is sludged with mud, ground with trash. The library is open for business; the cook tent compressed, but still serving. The Kid Zone has been reoccupied by a teenager, sound asleep in the only chair. No matter. I glimpse only two children with parents who carry a film camera.
. . . and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
Seeing this flyer taped firmly to a pillar, I complete the sentence aloud . . . and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, turn to a young man standing near by and ask him what grievances he would list if petitioning for redress. He wrinkles his brow and shrugs.
Whatever, who cares, don't matter . . .
But you're here. You must care, I say. We do have the right to petition for a redress of grievances, so why can't we put our heads together and come up with a list of potential actions that would make an immediate and real positive difference in the lives of the many, the 99%? We can avoid the trap of exhaustively listing everything, find one or two really really important issues and focus on those. Why not start with asking for the forgiveness of student loans and a health care system that serves all?
Start somewhere and start simply.
Public schools are closing, and public universities are rapidly becoming unaffordable for most working class families. The University of California – Berkeley estimates that a student should expect to budget quite a bit more than $30,000 to cover tuition and living expenses for 9 months of study. Who can afford that? Students are then cajoled into accepting damaging loan agreements. Cheerful financial aid counselors convince would-be borrowers that a college degree will guarantee generous salaries that will allow them to pay off these loans, but if this scenario of higher wages for college grads was once true, it is no longer. Just ask one of the hundreds of unemployed college grads who sit writing in coffee shops or those who are currently underemployed waiting tables or ringing up purchases at supermarkets everywhere. You’ll get an earful. I spoke to a public servant today who borrowed $15,000 to go to school, has been paying what he can afford, and now years later owes $28,000. Such loan practices are immoral and just plain wrong. In some cases, if all the interest paid month by month is added up, the original money borrowed has been repaid.
Forgive these usurious student loans now.
Students graduating with tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt cannot actively participate in society. Burdened by high monthly payments on absurd debt, they cannot get loans to start businesses, mortgages to buy houses. Forgive those loans and thousands of people would instantly have more disposable income. A simple stimulus that might kick-start the economy. Then, make education a priority. Establish real and reasonable federal subsidies for public education. Make sure all public schools are adequately funded, and then perhaps the absurd loans will no longer be necessary.
Kid Zone reoccupied by a sleeping teenager
Who knows? Perhaps if freed from paying ridiculous monthly payments on student loans, young people just might be able to afford medical insurance, but I doubt it. That system is still in need of major
reform and focusing on private health insurance providers is a mistake. We need federally funded healthcare.
Despite the passing of the recent health care bill, medical care remains elusive. For many, health care is simply unavailable or grossly inadequate (despite the valiant efforts of doctors and nurses working in clinics and public hospitals). Too many still cannot afford insurance, including me, and it's not a matter of waiting until the healthcare bill kicks in. That insurance will be no more affordable in two years than it is now.
Three years ago, I could pay $283/mo for moderately useful health insurance from Kaiser-Permanente. Today, if I could even buy a similar policy -- 20+% of applicants are denied -- the cost of that same policy, including a hefty deductible ($5000- 7000/yr), would be more than twice that.
Both medical insurance
and care are excessively expensive in part because healthcare in the US is an under-regulated and unashamedly for-profit business that has lost sight of any real
responsibility for fostering and creating community. Unfortunately, there are now more who want that profit to expand ad infinitum
than there are those who are content to accept modest profits that might allow for modest lifestyles. Drug manufacturers and insurance companies are making money hand over fist, and health care, when available, is suffering.
Sunday morning and the church tent is zippered shut.
The answer? Establish now a federally subsidized one-payer healthcare system that will guarantee the health and the welfare of all by making medical care available once again to everyone, not just those who can afford to buy expensive health insurance.
The United States is rich and powerful nation, and the United States is us -- we the people. We do have both the funds and the expertise to do this. It’s a matter of recognizing and organizing our priorities. A peaceful strong nation needs to invest in its future by educating its citizens and ensuring their health. We have a responsibility to demand that our tax dollars be used to support the education, health, and welfare of the American people. If we stop spending billions on weaponry and war, we can start spending billions on education, health, and life.
Occupy the mind and nourish the body politic.
Abandoned but not dismantled. the worker solidarity booth
In the past week, Oakland police working with US Marshals have arrested more than 130 suspected killers, thieves, drug dealers, and sex offenders. The sweep was announced as a valiant effort to make Oakland streets safe once again, and then late yesterday afternoon, yet another young black man was shot to death, this time near Occupy: Oakland.
a shrine for the fallen
Although most accounts of the shooting state that neither victim nor shooter were denizens of the encampment, immediately blame for the shooting was shifted onto the Occupiers, and now many are once again calling for the dismantlement of the camp. I know that after the shooting the first responder was a compassionate and skilled medic from the camp, but I also know that some of the response was chaotic and less than compassionate.Watching videos of the aftermath of the shooting that are now floating about
the web, I am inclined to agree that serious Occupy organizers should perhaps reassess strategy, dismantle the camp, get that office that they want, and start organizing beyond daily living. On one video
, a young woman can be heard crying out That's a dummy on the ground. They are resuscitating a dummy
. On another,
a man can be heard shouting Undercover cop, that's an undercover cop.
. . Both seem to be exhibiting paranoia out of control . . . that was not a dummy on the ground. No one was trying to manufacture an incident to shut down the encampment. The limp body on the ground was that of a young man, maybe twenty years old, bleeding out, a young man shot in the back of his head, a young man, dead. A young man killed in cold blood not by cops but by his "friends"
after an argument that some say was over a bag of weed.
The shooting may not be related to Occupy: Oakland, but with comments like that, those particular Occupiers who shouted out such things identified themselves as being perhaps dangerously out of touch with their hearts and minds. Of course, those two are not the all, but . . .
*Occupy your Mind.*
*Think and act Responsibly.*
I recall words that Dostoevsky wrote in a letter more than a century ago: The most unbearable misfortune is when you yourself become unjust, malignant, vile. Confined to a prison in most abominable circumstances, Dostoevsky was writing about himself. He recognized that the filth that surrounded him, the poor living conditions, the cold, the lack of food, were souring his spirit and confusing his mind.
It seems as if the Occupy encampment may be becoming a prison of sort. Rather than empowering its denizens, convincing them that they are the 99% -- the majority -- the camp is creating dangerous estrangement. Many are feeling increasingly separated from the surrounding community regardless of the obvious fact that the surrounding community is their community, our community, the community of the 99%. If you really believe yourself to be part of the 99%, to view the greater world as the enemy is a mistake. It's a troubled world, needing repair and much revision, but it is our world.
Buy local, eat local
We should not voluntarily imprison ourselves but seek instead ways to open our lives to beauty and love.
Obviously, some do. Signs have been posted beseeching campers to patronize local businesses and to respect those who visit, but not all extend welcome to visitors. Not all listen. Some are more interested in aggressively pushing back, and those few are edging to the forefront, blotting out the many who want peaceful resolution.
Early this morning, even I, definitely one of that 99%, was challenged by some rather aggressive characters lounging about the perimeter of the camp, accused of being a cop, because I was asking questions and taking pictures, documenting the camp in the falling rain.
I don't look much like a cop. Don't even own a baseball cap.
Think about it, work with the community, for the community
Once again, I find myself with my eyes closed, hoping for peace, wanting to believe that we can create and maintain a world founded on love, mutual respect, peace and justice.
I love this world, and I love life.
My heart goes out to the family of the young man shot to death.
Walking yesterday along the shore, watching helicopters buzz officiously above the UC-Berkeley campus, I stumbled on this quiet welcoming place, hidden amongst tall seeding fennel and waving shore grasses. I stopped there briefly and breathed, grateful for the silence, the kindness, the whimsy.
Somebody spent long hours gathering these heavy stones and bits of smashed concrete, placing them gently against one another to create a rugged terrace that might provide a dry place to sit and dream when rains come. Even if the surrounding dirt paths turn to mud as well they might, here is a place to rest and meditate.
This quiet heart-place, near a little-used unpaved bike path that snakes along the Bay south of the Berkeley Marina, provides walkers quiet communion both with the land and with the spirit of those who created it, those who have visited, and those who have spent time sitting peaceably on the stones, listening.
Although surrounded by rugged treeless wild land, covered with the unchecked growth of weeds and grasses, this urban sanctuary remains strongly connected to the human world. The incessant whine of the nearby freeway overwhelms the softer sounds of birds or water lapping on the nearby shore, but that is somehow okay. The traffic noise is as raw and rangy as is the land and the tiny sanctuary that rests upon it. This is a place of active awareness, an urban wilderness, a human place for human rest.
Welcome, please don't remove anything
The power walkers who march heartily and sometimes hastily around the track up at the Berkeley Marina rarely find their way down to this more hidden and less panoramic trail. A trail that ends at the water does not invite joggers or those who need to turn endlessly into their own beginnings. Instead, it offers solitude, a place to breathe and think. While walking the length of the trail, throwing a stick and then a ball for little Earnest to chase, we met only a father and son carrying binoculars, hoping to see birds amongst the tall grasses. They were interested in far distance being brought close, but not being so equipped, I was happy to see what was close by and found these signs of welcome and joy, imagined then the connective distance that such nearness creates and modifies. The threads between then and now, creator and viewer, empty and full.
Add your prayers and your dreams
Closeness feeds me. The small, the near. I am less interested in grand gestures or widespread expansion yet love to rest my eyes on far horizons. The horizon and the distance between that unreachable place and me open my heart to a tender love for myself and for this place, the sea, the land, the grand space that nurtures the small, the seed, the still. I am interested in growth, but growing greater or larger, greatest or largest, hold little interest for me. I prefer the boundless, the space between, to any comparative measure. How happy I was today to discover this small place that reached out to a limitless world of consciousness and grace.
after hopping down the bunny trail, rest and meditate
On strange still mornings when the air is crisply clear, the world turns upside down. Here, Oakland's corporate towers, wavering on their watery foundations.
The Legacy of Pirates
A boy gets shot, doesn’t even make the news.
That’s how bad things are. He didn’t die, so
no one needs to know except those who know,
those who watched the men in blue, bemused
and on their knees, brushing detail from the street,
those who saw the yellow bands of tape, stretched
from the wrought iron fence beside the church
to the public school gate. Church and State meet
as police set metal moons to orbit
the two square yards between cars where the boy
fell. They work in silence. The only noise
the click of cameras, taking pictures
no one sees. Today, I put some tinned fish
and crackers into a bag, drove to the beach
with my dog who knows nothing of guns,
who ran and ran until all four feet left
the ground. That flight could be so easy
made me laugh, grateful for the earth
the sea the sky the sun the speed the blue.
Now I’m home, drinking mint tea with honey,
listening to the radio: homeland security strategy
death threat espionage war guns battle theft.
My dog is deep asleep, his head on my feet,
caught up no doubt in grey seabirds, white flash
up and up and up, blinking into all that blue
as he madly charges into the sky, legs folded
to his belly, resting on air, but wingless, he falls
to earth and barks. We saw elk, he and I,
babies, brand-new, grazing near the lighthouse.
We sat inside the car, its motor growling
but they didn’t sprint long-legged up the slope.
They shifted aside, looked with tender eyes,
stepped before us with gracious dignity.
Fearless. No men with guns. No enemies.
Down below the cliffs, sea lions on the beach
just up from the sea. One still slicky wet, was singing.