Home

this place i call home 

it’s a long day and a drive home

into the setting sun and dusk

as i pull up in front of my house,

stand at the curb,

and look at this place 

i call home…

a soft glow emanates 

from the porch light,

revealing an old rocker

and the plain grapevine wreath

that hangs on the wall behind it

i realize this simple facade

is a postage stamp 

on the letter of my life…

a statement of who i am

and where i live…

my shelter and my refuge…

where i rest and lay my head…

and it’s all i need…

this place i call home…

by Sylvia L. Mattingly, March 25, 2021

Photo by Sylvia L. Mattingly

Sylvia’s Poetry

a blue-sky day

dried grass plumes
rise above a patch of cattails…

cattails whose heads
have long since blown open,
now fuzzy and disheveled,
nod in the breeze

naked tree branches
scratch and claw
at a bright blue sky…
anxiously waiting
to slip from winter bondage
and break into bud

signs have begun to appear..
portents of things to come…

the greening of grass…
nodding white snowdrops…
yellow winter aconite…

spidery witch hazel blooms…
yellowish orange
against a blue-sky day…

all harbingers of spring…
unnoticed by many
but treasures to the watchful eye

Sylvia L. Mattingly
March 4, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

Tiny Shining Star by Sylvia

tiny shining star

twinkle

tiny shining star…

beyond the night

away so far…

in darkest depths 

of sunless skies…

your sparkling 

leaves me mesmerized…

even in 

the light of day…

you shine 

though millions of miles away…

oh star

that in the dark of night…

guides us

with celestial light…

your mysteries 

i’m left to ponder…

my eyes so filled

with awestruck wonder

Sylvia L. Mattingly, February 6, 2021

Photos by Pixabay

The Full and the Hollow

This poem by Sylvia (Mattingly, my niece) really touched a chord with me. During the past twelve months of pandemic many days have felt sorrowful, burdensome and hollow. I’m so grateful though, that there are days that which are full, full of love, caring, helping. Both kinds of days make up our lives for which we should be thankful. I hope your day if full of brightness and joy.


the full and the hollow

sometimes life leaves you hollow

and in that hollow,

sorrows fall and settle 

like snow…

burdensome

as they deepen…

blowing and drifting 

in empty silence 

across the icy landscape 

of a saddened heart

but…

sometimes life leaves you full

and in that fullness,

joys rise and radiate

like sunshine 

carefree 

as they uplift…

waltzing and fluttering 

to notes of music

across the melodic dance floor 

of a happy heart

and so… 

these opposing forces

abide in us…

completing us…

the yin and the yang…

the full and the hollow

Sylvia L.Mattingly, February 5, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

Sliver of Moon

sliver of a moon

only a sliver of a moon
hangs above the horizon…
a thin white arc
against the dark night sky…

every night i watch it rise
and every night it widens…
illuminated by the cast off
light of the sun…

a waxing crescent
grows with the passing days…
blossoming into
a wondrous nocturnal flower…

there for us to see
in all its celestial glory…
yet time ticks by
and the waning begins…

and like the ocean tide
that washes over the sand…
our nighttime treasure
slowly ebbs away…

Sylvia L. Mattingly
Completed January 27, 2021

Photo by Pixabay

Another Poem by Sylvia

the same nighttime sky

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now setting 

in the western sky…

and with it my heart

so deepeningly blue…

are we 

still,

the same me

the same you?

don’t we 

share,

the same earth

the same sky…

the same moon

the same stars

in the same nighttime sky?

don’t we 

want,

the same hope

the same chance…

the same truth

the same peace

in this same lifetime dance?

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now rising 

in the eastern sky…

and with it my heart

no longer so blue…

together we can be

a new me

a new you

Sylvia L. Mattingly

January 20, 2021

Written before and after today’s Presidential Inauguration, in hopes of the end of such hateful divisiveness and instead, a reunification in this country.

A New Day

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman is a 22 year old Harvard graduate who was selected to be the inaugural poet at President Joe Biden’s swearing in ceremony today. You may hear her beautifully recite her poem here: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/meet-amanda-gorman-the-youngest-inaugural-poet-in-us-history.html

Title photo by Pixabay

The Visit Poem

the visit

 

upon waking,

the first day of this new year,

i opened my back door

to find visitors…

 

not just the usual gathering,

but an unorthodox menagerie…

visitors of the most extraordinary kind…

 

a boastful bluejay

flashing his brilliant wings…

a haughty mockingbird

exhibiting his boisterous nature…

 

a bashful carolina wren

darting back and forth

from bush to bush…

a host of chatty starlings

conversing amongst themselves

from higher in the trees

 

and my usual visitors…

the common house sparrows

hiding in the safety of the holly bushes…

a male cardinal, tweeting madly

from the utility line.,,

and a handful of doves,

camouflaged against the bare ground

beneath the empty feeder…

 

my visitors come anxiously…

awaiting their morning manna

of sunflower and millet seeds…

peanuts and thistle…

 

but the most striking visitors of the day

are the dozens of robins

devoid of their usual warm weather fare,

come to feast on the ripened red berries

of the foster hollies…

 

and here am i…

ever grateful for the visit

where in my own private aviary

without walls or doors

all are free to come and go at will…

knowing they can…

knowing there is safety,

but knowing there is freedom…

 

and here am i…

in awe of what nature has delivered

on this the first day of a new year…

knowing that not only is it they

who have come here to me,

but i in turn

who have also paid the visit

By Sylvia L. Mattingly, January 1, 2020… the year of perfect vision.

6FA50F30-C9E1-4CA2-B356-74A7927B9A11

 

Photo by Pixabay

 

First Day of Winter

snow devils

the frigid arctic wind

stirs up snow devils

that spin and twist

in a cold driven rage

spin drift sprays

off the rooftops

as the cold polar air

sinks and plunges

like a thick heavy weight

toward the ice crusted ground

the air looks solid

and dimensional

as though one could reach out

and take hold

of its thick bitter substance

but in doing so cringe

at the marrow numbing

coldness that courses

through blood and bone

chilling and freezing

even to the core

the snow devils dance

twirling and spinning

in a mad white frenzy

set loose by a polar vortex

that has lost its way

across a wind whipped landscape

written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly 

February 3, 2019

BF7E6549-E4AA-4ECB-8351-29B481D86D4B

Photo by Pixabay

Zoom by Pat

On Christmas Day in this Covid year,
Let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom.
There are other ways to spread cheer.
Let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Mailing cards and I O Us.
Certificates for grub and booze.
Another time to meet and schmooze.
For now let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Presence and presents both can wait,
‘Til a later, safer date.
Only then can we clean the plate.
For now, Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Sing a carol, deck your halls,
Post some pictures on your Platform walls,
Use the phone and make some calls.
Use Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Better days are on their way.
Might be April, possibly May.
Until they come, at home let’s stay.
Just Zoom Zoom Zoom.

Peace and blessings I send to you.
Thanks for all you say and do.
You took care so I say, “Woohoo”!
Let’s Zoom Zoom Zoom!!!!

By Pat Bush – November 2020

Photos by Pixabay

MY GINGKO by Sylvia

my gingko

of origins that rise

from lands of jade

with fan-shaped leaves

so fittingly displayed

a crown of yellow foliage

fills my view

so strikingly 

against a sky so blue

then suddenly they fall 

without a sound

yellow leaves now drifting 

to the ground 

a skirt of gold 

now lying at my feet

a treasure where the 

earth and heaven meet

in nakedness your winter bones laid bare

your massive furrowed trunk

left standing there

a monument of centuries gone by

this living fossil rising to the sky

by Sylvia L. Mattingly

November 12, 2020

A Poem by Sylvia

wicked cold evening

it’s mid November
and a cold drive home . . .

i’m surrounded by evidence
of progress and infrastructure
in the asphalt serpent that i travel on . . .
the bridges of iron and concrete
that span a winding river . . .
the steel and glass monoliths
that stretch skyward
above a sprawling city . . .

as i snake past
the coldness of concrete and steel
i’m drawn into the perceived warmth
of a rose colored sunset . . .
a blanket of soft pinks and blues
pulled up against a western sky

i rumble across the river
on a double decker bridge
leaving one city behind
and entering another . . .

i am a child of nature
a woodland soul, as my name implies . . .
a lover of the earth
and all things celestial . . .
now rooted in an urban jungle . . .

as i turn down market street
past the tall inner-city structures . . .
there before me . . .
low on the eastern horizon . . .
hovers a full “beaver” moon . . .
bright and bold against the blue black sky

my mind is flooded with memories
of another beaver moon now three years past . . .
and memories of someone
who is as distant as the moon itself
on this wicked cold evening

by Sylvia L. Mattingly
November 23, 2019

D795DE86-D863-4BEC-A33B-148D90C32A95

Photos by Pixabay

Solitude

the lovely peace of solitude 

in the woods 

i find the lovely peace of solitude

where the only sounds i hear

are the chirp of birds…

the rustle of wings in the undergrowth…

the forage of squirrels in dry leaves…

and the occasional trickle of water

i follow a stream that parallels the trail…

leading to a wide creek and on to an expansive river…

the sun, so strong for November, 

warms my skin,

reaches its apex, then begins a slow steady descent,

casting long shadows across the leaf littered floor 

most leaves have fallen,

only the rich yellow-bronze of the beech cling tightly to their branches…

vibrant against the smooth, gray,

graffiti laden bark

i follow the creek…

a watery ribbon of reflected color,

until the trail snakes away

into the deepening woods

there is solace in these woods

and i cherish every step,

planting my boots firmly in the mud 

to leave an impression…

evidence that I was here,

along with the footprints of 

many kindred spirits

Sylvia L. Mattingly November 9, 2020

Silent Woodland

silent woodland

on an autumn day
i stepped onto a well-worn path
and entered the forest,
enveloped by a blanket of warm rich colors
that pulsed under a vibrant blue sky

as i walked, the path descended
then ascended in return,
creating a repetitious pattern of undulations
like a roller coaster carpet of dirt and rock
beneath my feet

the trail carved its way through the hillsides
that were littered with fallen leaves
and newly sprouted mushrooms

dead trees had become host to a number of
earthen colored fungi,
deeply rooted in the soft decaying bark…

dead trees that in their death, were now spawning new life…
one life gives, so another lives

halfway through my hike i stopped
and noticed there were none of the
usual woodland sounds…
not the soft sigh of an easy wind
nor the chirp of a single bird…
not even the trickle of water
in the now barren stream bed

silence… only silence…

until i began to walk and the dry leaves crunched underfoot…
i could hear the steady rhythm of my labored breathing
and it was then that i realize
that for now and for this moment
perhaps i
was the voice of the forest…
the voice in this silent woodland

Written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly, January 16, 2018

0AAE83A4-4F1E-40FB-81BA-90903FFD1777

 

Photo by Pixabay

Autumn Poem by Sylvia

silent woodland

on an autumn day
i stepped onto a well worn path
and entered the forest,
enveloped by a blanket of warm rich colors
that pulsed under a vibrant blue sky

as i walked, the path descended
then ascended in return,
creating a repetitious pattern of undulations
like a roller coaster carpet of dirt and rock
beneath my feet

the trail carved its way through the hillsides
that were littered with fallen leaves
and newly sprouted mushrooms

dead trees had become host to a number of
earthen colored fungi,
deeply rooted in the soft decaying bark…

dead trees that in their death, were now spawning new life…
one life gives, so another lives

halfway through my hike i stopped
and noticed there were none of the
usual woodland sounds…
not the soft sigh of an easy wind
nor the chirp of a single bird…
not even the trickle of water
in the now barren streambed

silence… only silence…

until i began to walk and the dry leaves crunched underfoot…
i could hear the steady rhythm of my own labored breathing
and it was then that i realized
that for now and for this moment
perhaps i
was the voice of the forest…
the voice in this silent woodland

written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly,  January 16, 2018

8C2EED23-0ACE-4070-805E-0D464AB1B263

 

Photo by Pixabay

At Dusk by Sylvia

at dusk

at dusk, i leave,
just as the lightning bugs arrive,
the warm glow of yellow lights
softly pulsing…
tapping out a unique version
of Morse code…
the white, billowy clouds
of a summer day,
lose dimension
and become shadowy silhouettes
pasted flatly against a twilight sky…
a yard ablaze
with colorful flowerbeds,
earlier awed over
and envied for their beauty,
recedes into the blossoming darkness
it was a day of laughter

and happy, smiling faces…

of chatter and camaraderie
and the ignorant bliss of childhood
then comes the leaving…
the driving away…
the honking of horns…
the waving of hands
and yelling of goodbyes
from a chorus of voices…
a steady stream of raw emotions
flows back and forth
between those who leave
and those who stay…
until the voices trail away
and the faces in the car windows
have long disappeared,
and this, another day,
has already found its place
in our memories
Sylvia L. Mattingly
July 30, 2020

8DF771CA-E98D-4AE2-AD78-8FEC3D6159B6
Photo by Mike

Guest Haiku

Several months ago  https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/  we discussed Haiku and I asked readers to submit their original poems. A new reader, Jan Beekman, has done just that and here is her Haiku and her lovely photograph to go with it. The yellow blooms inspired her poetry.

Lilies drop petals

Long before other flowers

Best not to cut them

B2EBD101-B469-4D17-9746-27F25653F8E8
Photo by Jan Beekman

 

Poem: Find Me

Another Poem by Sylvia ADBE4DB2-4E24-46F1-A184-6945C10916DF

find me
look among my wealth of nature’s bounty…
among feathers, acorns,
and a harvest of dried leaves…
among the marbles and arrowheads
that i plucked from the ground…
and the skeleton keys and old coins
that rose from there as well
look among my treasure chest
of cherished things…
the photos of loved ones
both living and gone…
the shelves of books
that house a hundred voices…
and walls of art
that feed my hungry soul
look among my memories of
timeless things…
loves and friendships
that know no end…
places ventured
that echo a thousand footsteps…
and unknown journeys
whose steps are yet unknown
look among these things
and that’s where you’ll find me…
divided between the present
and the fragmented pieces of time…
between nature, relics, sentiments
and written words…
only look…
look among these things…
and find me

written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly, August 18, 2019

The Earth Could Heal

the earth could heal

if we were gone
the earth could heal
we see the evidence
now that viral pandemonium
has herded us into seclusion
nature has begun to breathe again…
the air and water have cleared
as we have been forced
to shrink back in isolation
but even after this pandemic
has passed
will we have seen the difference
will we ever understand
that one day the earth might die
for it requires care and respect
and its resources are finite
we pillage and plunder
to make our lives more
convenient and comfortable
and we are never satisfied…
we will always want more…
we will take until
there is nothing left to give…
like Shel Silverstein’s “Giving Tree”
we have been given a level
of intelligence
that supersedes all…
and a sharp conscience
with which to hone wisdom
if only we were good stewards…
if only we could live
in balance and harmony
but just remember
that the earth could heal
the earth could heal
if we were gone
Sylvia L. Mattingly, May 8, 2020
Written during the Covid-19 pandemic that has rocked our world.
I feel passionate about how we affect our planet and Mother Nature.
We only have one home, and we’d better take care of it.
A6AFFCB2-CA38-4C9D-AFBE-8920826292D9
Photo by Pixabay

Physically Distant

“physically distant” by Pat Bush

I plan to stay “physically distant”,

Not giving up for a day or an instant.

Yes, it is hard and NOT the norm,

In any way, shape, or form.

My heart is aching for those not paid,

For graduations, proms, canceled, or delayed.

Yet if we’re careful for some months or more

Our reunions will mean more than ever before.

Sadly, for some, it’s never to be,

Because some they loved they’ll never see.

Let’s do it right. Stay strong and hope.

Calling and texting will help us cope.

“Normal” will be a thing of the past,

But what we learn can truly last.

Pay closer attention, develop new skills.

For it is ignorance that truly kills.

We are better when we are wise.

Don’t be fooled by selfish lies.

 

78C87900-1D35-4644-A91C-038AD89309C6

Thief of Lives

thief of lives

crossing oceans,

an invisible enemy washes up

and rises to walk

the flourishing earth

it rises

and wanders among the living…

preying upon human weaknesses…

exploiting the need for closeness

and contact

it moves between people

from host to host,

wreaking havoc

on health and emotions

thief of lives, but never of souls

it thrives in the elderly and the compromised,

yet also in the young and healthy…

leaving no stone unturned,

no one invulnerable

nature watches with a knowing eye

as she wakens from her slumber…

but remains unbiased

in the unfurling of leaves

and the opening of blossoms…

she is impartial

to the plight of humankind…

oblivious to the chaos…

the loss of life and livelihood… knowing

that eventually this too shall pass

it will run its course

this abomination…

this thief…

thief of lives

but never of souls…

Sylvia L. Mattingly, April 18, 2020

EDCC41E1-B6E4-4736-8E0A-C20832CD6266

What Is This Place

What is this place?  Masks, gloves, plexiglass partitions

What is this place? Tape on the floor where we’re to stand

I search the masked faces for a smile.

I dread the touch of rubber gloved workers.

Do I really need to disinfect my groceries?

Has someone coughed on my fruit or vegetables?

Do I even want these items in my kitchen?

What is this place where we were once comfortable?

What is this place where we once entertained?

Can this be my neighborhood?

Can this be my home?

Where are the hugs for which I long?

What is this place?

It’s National Poetry Month

Poem by Sylvia

A million shades of gray

Once I thought life was all black and white

Half a century now gone by…things have gone from day to night

I’ve learned that in the book of life, the words are a colorful array

And everything in between the lines is but a million shades of gray

Once I thought life was all black and white

That everything around me was either wrong or was right

That the world was of nothing but opposite extremes

And then I found that life wasn’t what I saw in my dreams

I once was an idealist and dreamed of everything white

If it wasn’t, it was black and black wasn’t all right

I dreamed of white, pure and good… the color of snow

But over five decades, I have now come to know

Life is as colorful as we choose it to be, but with many shades of gray

Reality lives, and we must understand that the sun doesn’t shine every day

There’s not always a rainbow, there’s not always snow, and darkness doesn’t always thrive… 

It’s not the black and the white but the million shades of gray that actually keep us alive

Written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly 11/30/11

 

Only for a Day

 

only for a day

sometimes i want to go back…
to days gone by…
to times held precious…
now existing only in photographs
and in my mind

i long for those years, those days,
those still frames of life
that are such a part of me…

but that i’ll never know again…

if only for a day
i’d like to run down the sidewalk…
home from summer camp
and find momma, standing in the sunlight
in the front window,
wearing the skirt i always loved…

i’d like to follow daddy
barefooted through the garden
once more
as he digs up potatoes…
leaving the tiny ones for me
to pick up, wipe on my shorts
and pop in my mouth…
raw and earthy
like the soil they grew in

i’d like to sit on the floor
with my little brother…
play cowboys and Indians
and herd plastic farm animals
into plank fenced corrals

i’d make chewing gum chains
and white clover necklaces with my sister…
order exotic stamps for our collection…
and cut clothes out of the Sears catalog for our homemade paper dolls…

if only for a day
i’d go back to a faraway Christmas…
of cedar trees and multi-color lights…
of homemade ornaments and
tinsel icicles…
the excitement of presents
under the tree…
and Christmas albums on the record player at night

i’d relive a summer day
of homemade ice cream
from the hand-cranked freezer
and all the labor
that went into making it…
momma cutting bananas
and mixing the ingredients…
us kids weighing the mixer down…
daddy cranking the handle…
adding ice and rock salt
until the freezer grew so cold and hard that he couldn’t crank it anymore…
then the sweet, creamy coolness
on our tongues

i’d like another ride on my tricycle…
another day of fishing off the bridge over Floyd’s Fork…
another ride
on my white horse Cricket…
another season in the tobacco patch…

but these days will never be back…
they survive only in my memories…
shadows of things that happened…

“only for a day”
Sylvia L. Mattingly
September 26, 2019

tricycle-691587_1280

Photo by Pixabay

Wisdom

the key to wisdom

fresh and clean
we’re born into the world…
our hearts, open windows…
our minds, empty slates
we have an innate thirst
for knowledge…
making a perpetual effort
to quench it…
we muddle our way through adversity…
pick our way past
chaos…
acquiring knowledge…
gaining experience…
developing  judgement…
creating a unique law of three
that matures and ripens
over the course of a lifetime…
this law of three…
the key to wisdom

by Sylvia L. Mattingly

777AC580-8ECD-4B0E-828B-12602C22BD60
Photo by Pixabay

At My Feet – A Poem by Sylvia

at my feet

in a postage stamp yard
behind a small bungalow
i have the world at my feet
“my world”…
of speckled starlings and common house sparrows…
Carolina wrens and cardinals…
chipmunks who scurry about
beneath the fern fronds and boxwood…
and families of gray squirrels
who travel the branching highways
of the mighty oaks…

this is my world
among my animal friends
who come to me
like I’m Snow White…
and I to them
like they’re nature’s counselors…

and they are…
gathering at their feeders
and eating peanuts
at my feet

Sylvia L. Mattingly
September 8, 2019

Photos by Pixabay

Haiku by Dogs?

Thank you to the readers who took the Haiku challenge! You did a superb job writing your Haiku and it was fun.

Imagine if your dog could talk to you. Or even better what if he/she could write Haiku like you? One reader pointed out the book below written by Jamie Coleman. I took a look on Amazon and found it intriguing. I think it would be a good holiday gift for any dog or Haiku lover! Here’s a sample from within the pages:

You may take my balls
But I will lick what remains
And then, dear, your face

289217E8-C812-446A-8560-8E16A51C82F1_4_5005_c

Sylvia’s Haiku

Sylvia Mattingly is my niece and friend. You know her from reading many of her poems on this blog. Syl jumped in with her Haiku which tells exactly who she is, a nature lover.

Sylvia’s Haiku

Lover of nature
I venture through the woodlands
And leave my heart there.

fullsizeoutput_23f2

Dianne’s Haiku

Thank you readers! The responses continue to the Haiku Challenge https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/  The latest is about my Grand-dog, Hawkeye. Hawkeye’s name is bigger than he as you can see here.  The Haiku is by my daughter.

IMG_3722.JPG

Dianne’s Haiku

Tiny puppy dreams
Little feet run, he squeaks, snores
His dream squirrel is tiny too.

fullsizeoutput_23f2

 

Christine’s Haiku

A blogger I follow is Christine Goodnough. I recommend that you take a look at her beautiful blog “Christine’s Collection” https://christinegoodnough.com that often includes poetry. Christine was quick to respond to the Haiku Challenge https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/ with a meaningful poem.

Christine’s Haiku

lighthouse
a steady glow in the darkness
your friendship

Christine went further and offered some advice and information that I want to share with you. Christine said:

The 5-7-5 rule is flexible. Some great haiku vary from this. There should be some sort of clear division of thought in the verse, and the last line is not to be just an explanation of the other two. For example, not:

I eat strawberry jam
on my toast every morning
I like strawberry jam

Christine has shared six more of her Haiku which are from her blog. They are listed below. Thank you Christine for sharing your expertise. It is always good to be learning something new!

More of Christine’s Haiku

beach party over
empty bottles settle
into the sand

beer cans
in the cave signs of
intelligent life

two females
two bird feeders — no question
of sharing

hummingbird
shares his syrup with a fly
noblesse oblige

wild prairie crocus
deep in its furry coat
a sunbeam

fullsizeoutput_23f2

Pat’s Haiku

Pat Bush is a faithful reader and frequent commenter on this blog. She was quick to answer the Haiku Challenge https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/  with excellent poems. Here are Pat’s six Haiku.

Pat’s Haiku

The noise and the News.
I long for quieter times.
Silence is golden.

Feeling cold. I’m old.
Body aches and pains abound.
Better sore than dead.

I love challenges.
Especially ones with words.
The mind awakens.

Sue Baugh Mattingly.
Her blog is always nifty.
From it comes wisdom.

Cornucopia
What a wonderful concept!
A Horn of Plenty.

Eight whole notes; five, half.
Create all music we hear.
Amazing talent.

fullsizeoutput_23f2

Bill’s Haiku

More Reader Haiku

Bill is a friend who I didn’t even know was reading Crooked Creek, but he quickly took the Haiku Challenge https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/  and here are his poems. I love them, Bill!

Bill’s Three Haiku

Star hanging as fruit
beneath the scimitar moon.
The tree boughs in praise!

Tried to write Haiku
But decided I could not.
Maybe I am wrong…

Ms. Sue Mattingly,
A wonderful friend I have.
She is a blessing!

fullsizeoutput_23f2

Kate’s Haiku

The responses to the Haiku Challenge https://crookedcreek.live/2019/11/14/haiku/   were many and I am so proud of each reader who has participated. You’ve done an impressive job and there’s some good poetry here. Instead of printing all the poems together I think they will be more appreciated if they are posted a few at a time.

I’m going to begin today with one by my granddaughter, Kate Elliott. Thank you, Kate, for your very meaningful submission.

Kate’s Haiku

I’m American
I live across the ocean
I love England too.

fullsizeoutput_23f2

I’m so happy to report that Kate is going to be crossing that ocean with her husband, Tom, in the next couple of days to visit us here in America!

My Haiku

Okay, I did it. At least I think that I did. Below is my final poem, but first I’ll share some of my initial attempts.

1. My love of nature
    has grown slowly year by year.
    Now it is so dear.
2. Haiku is silly.
    No fun in this poetry.
    Poetry should rhyme.
3. Here I sit with pen.
    I want to write a haiku.
   Oh no! What to do!

My Haiku

Crooked Creek was home
but not now, it looks foreign.
Gone so many years.

Your Turn

Remember, three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Send to: suebmattingly@gmail.com

fullsizeoutput_23f2

Haiku

Haiku

Do you know what a Haiku is? Do you know what Haiku are? Both questions are grammatically correct according to the dictionary. I checked with Grammarly which does not agree. What can we depend upon? It seems with Haiku there are as many questions as answers. Surely someone out there can help!

Poetry was not greatly appreciated where I went to high school. It seems a farming community had more important things to learn, like Home Economics and Agriculture. Reading a little Robert Frost is what I remember passing for poetry in my literature classes until college and then no one mentioned Haiku.

I didn’t hear about it/them until I was middle-aged and the local newspaper presented a Haiku contest. I read all the entries printed and mostly scratched my head. Recently I read a Haiku written by another blogger and appreciated it but still, I must admit that I didn’t “get it.” So let’s learn together. Are you game?

Definition

Haiku – a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five, traditionally evoking images of the natural world.  (According to Merriam-Webster)

Haiku (plural haiku) is a very short form of Japanese poetry. Modern Japanese haiku are increasingly unlikely to follow the tradition of 17 on (sic) or to take nature as their subject, but the use of juxtaposition continues to be honored in both traditional and modern haiku. (Per Wikipedia)

Adding the word “juxtaposition” didn’t help me, how about you? But let’s keep learning.

More Information

How to Write a Haiku Poem by Stephanie Wong Ken  Updated: August 21, 2019

A haiku (俳句 high-koo) is a short three-line poem that uses sensory language to capture a feeling or image. Haiku poetry was originally developed by Japanese poets. They are often inspired by nature, a moment of beauty, or a poignant experience. To write a haiku, start by brainstorming ideas for the poem. Then, write the poem with strong details and detailed imagery. Make sure you polish the haiku and listen to how it sounds out loud so it is at its best.

Examples

  • An ocean voyage.
    As waves break over the bow,
    the sea welcomes me.
  • A winter blanket
    covers the Earth in repose
    but only a dream
  • The warmth on my skin.
    Fire falls beneath the trees.
    I see the sun set.

Are You Ready?

Let’s write Haiku! I will post mine first just to be fair. I have no idea what it will be like because I’ve never said anything in a few syllables, but I’m going to give it a go! Please work on yours and send it via email so that the lines and syllables will be clear as opposed to in the regular comment section. I will post each one with your name. Here is my email address: suebmattingly@gmail.com

Let’s go!

fullsizeoutput_23f2

VOTE!

Tuesday morning, I will vote.
I’ll go by land, or go by boat.
Whatever it takes, I’ll have my say.
Wouldn’t consider any other way.
I’ve studied hard, seen where they stand.
(It’s always good to have a plan).
No more questions or second-guessing.
The choice is mine. I’m not stressing.
It takes less time than running amok.
Always vote. Don’t be a schmuck.

by Pat Bush

fullsizeoutput_22cc

Graphic by Pixabay

A Poem

A Poem by Mattie Stepanek

Making Real Sense of the Senses

Our eyes are for looking at things,

But they are also for crying

When we are very happy or very sad.

Our ears are for listening,

But so are our hearts.

Our noses are for smelling food,

But also the wind and the grass and

If we try very hard, butterflies.

Our hands are for feeling,

But also for hugging and touching so gently.

Our mouths and tongues are for tasting,

But also for saying words, like

“I love you” and

“Thank you, God, for all of these things.”

               April 1995

Mattie_Stepanek

The Year of Perfect Vision

the year of perfect vision

fall colors have begun to seep in…
staining the landscape
and in places, leaving the trees to bleed…

summer has lost its tenacious grip…
ebbing now against the winds
of change…
receding into the depths of its own
dusty shadows…

the earth is releasing a bounty…
sighing with the fall of every acorn, every walnut, every persimmon…
every parcel of nourishment
that nature has sent to sustain itself

the colors of autumn are growing
in brilliant hues and intensity…
that the eyes of humankind
might be opened…
peeled back in order to truly see
the value in the world around us…

nature tugs at our sleeves…
urging us to see…
to develop perfect vision…
to be guardians of the earth
on which we live…

and at its urging
we are swept away…
swept away
by a sea of  color and transformation

here…
in the last passing days of October…
just a few months shy
of the year of perfect vision

Sylvia L. Mattingly
October 21, 2019
In the company of cats.

AUTUMN-2800880_1280

Photo by Pixabay

Another Poem by Sylvia

October day

a placid stream
meanders through an October day…
quietly reflecting the autumn trees
that line its banks…

a sprinkling of fallen leaves
floats upon its surface…
casually drifting when
nudged by a gentle breeze…
collectively gathering along its fringes
like thoughts
along the fringes of our minds

a wooden bridge spans the gap
between two shores…
reflecting the connection
between humanity and nature

those who are drawn here
listen with open hearts
and open souls…
listen to the voice of nature
that speaks without words…
that whispers in the wind
sighs in the pine boughs…
and reflects itself
in a placid stream that meanders through an October day

Sylvia L. Mattingly
October 17, 2019

IMG_2080

Photo by Sylvia Mattingly

The Cusp

the cusp

“a point of transition between two different states”…

i feel it in myself
along with the first falling leaves
from the sycamores and poplars…
and the desiccated brown umbels
of Queen Anne’s lace

i hear it in the shrill cicada song
as it’s tireless droning
runs through my head…
and in the plop of acorns as they begin to hit the ground

i see it in the shrunken creek beds
that lie lazy and shallow…
and in the trees and grass
that have lost all their luster

i hear it in the rustle of corn stalks
once emerald green,
now parched and thirsty across
a rain-starved land

for everything has a season…
a time to be on the cusp…
a point of transition
from one state to the next

and i felt it
as it began
with the drifting down
of that first, tired, rusted leaf…

Written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly
September 6, 2019

f2JCTm1qSNe6+chIa9MeDw

The Least of These

A poem by Pat Bush

“Whatsoever you do, to the least of these, this you do unto me.” Matthew 24:40

Each night as I go to bed
I find my thoughts filled with dread.
Tuning out doesn’t lessen the pain.
Will we ever be normal again?
Deep inside I long to be
Peaceful, calm, carefree.
“Stay strong”, I softly say.
“Tomorrow is another day”.
Reality hits, as I arise.
Same old angst. No surprise.
The answer, in a word or two,
“Do unto others, as I do unto you”.
Simple, timeless, a how-to plan
For how to love your fellow man.
Wisdom given for us to share.
Open your heart, be aware.
Things don’t matter, people do.
I’m on board. How about you?
I’ll give toothpaste, I’ll give soap,
And a superabundance of hope.

      harmony-2164366_1280

 

Photo by Pixabay

Just for Fun II

How observant are you? It’s all in how we look at things.

Billowing curtains
Undulating hedges
Lullabies
Lingering
Should I go or stay
How long can I hold on
It is time
Time to go

Thanks for all the responses. This is yesterday’s poem with a slightly different look. See it now?  Christine did, but is too much a lady to say it. Pat got it in shorthand with a little help from her friends. Gerri gave it a try or two.

Again, this was a little exercise just for fun. I hope you enjoyed it. I did. If it had a message at all it’s that what passes for poetry can be a bit of BS. This little ditty took less than five minutes to write, but may sound like poetry to some. Or not.

 

Butterfly

Another poem by Sylvia Mattingly 12/24/2014

butterfly-2355361_1280

the flutter of the butterfly

my heart flutters and my soul sets sail
to drift with the yellow swallowtail
that taken by a current of air
settles upon a blossom fair
to sip of the sweetest nectar there

my eyes brim over with sheer delight
at the vision of such an effortless flight
that balancing awkwardness with grace
bobbles and flutters from place to place
to summon a smile from my curious face

my spirit lifts and my heart is at ease
floating along on a butterfly breeze
that whispering of life both new and old
tells us a story we’ve but to behold
through wings like pages that open and fold

my mind is awed and i remain still
held captive by a swallowtail thrill
that putting me in a butterfly trance
asks me to join in the butterfly dance
knowing i will whenever the chancef80d9274d3cc2fad838e4fd9e5d43af8-sticker

Photo by Pixabay

Heat Wave

Heat Wave

It is thick and sticky and hot
Like walking around in snot.

The Ohio River Valley feels
like walking on the Devil’s hills.

I’ve heard of Hell’s front porch
and here we sit and together scorch.

We have had to learn the heat index
because it trumps the temperature’s effects.

About climate change, we don’t worry.
When it is mentioned the politicians scurry.

Ten such days this year we can bear
but what about 2050? We don’t care.

flame-1345507_1280

Between a Rock & a Hard Place

I Will Remember

Sometimes life seems too hard
And sadness lingers too long.
Often even memories are charred
And everything is going wrong.

When problems tower
And solutions evade,
When prayer has lost its power
And I’m ashamed of the mess I’ve made
I will try to remember this little flower.

IcChB3u%QqSDjONwev4VyQ

Another Poem by Sylvia

one feather less

like a footprint left in the sand
i hold your feather in my hand . . .
an image begins to form in my mind
from this solitary feather you’ve left behind

i close my eyes

i imagine you soaring on currents of air
and if dreams could live, i’d join you there . . .
we’d sail in the wind, float on the breeze
view the world from the tops of the trees

i’d be one with your spirit, your strength and your sight
feeling your purpose, your wisdom, you might . . .
i’d revel in the glory of owning the sky . . .
on the wings of a hawk i’d ride the wind . . . i would fly

i open my eyes

like a footprint left in the sand
i hold your feather in my hand . . .
i feel the essence of your spirit like never before . . .
you with one feather less . . .
me with one feather more

fullsizeoutput_21ef

“one feather less” by Sylvia Mattingly
Inspired by a feather that was shed and left behind by a hawk that nested in a giant oak tree just behind my house.
Revised: April 2, 2019
Written: November 15, 2011

 

Photos by Pixabay

A Single Drop of Water

A guest who shares her poetry with us from time to time, Sylvia, is my niece and my friend. I love her work and this is one of her poems that touches me anew each time I read it. Thank you, Syl, for sharing with us.  

A single drop of water

In the grand scheme of things, I ask you this…
In a single drop of water, what is the significance

A single drop of water after a rain can hang precariously off the tip of a leaf
And sparkle like a glistening diamond any rich man might bequeath
If it were among the multitude, it would not be as a glistening stone
And it would fall from the weight of the many that could not leave it alone

A single drop of water can be a magical thing when kissed by a ray from the sun
It can become as a prism splitting light into colors, making light beams come undone
If it were part of the many, it could still make a rainbow…a beautiful expanse to be shown
But be nothing more than a part of the whole with no beauty all of its own

A single drop of water in the cold wintry sky can be frozen into a pure flake of snow
And float to the ground in a silent descent to an extended wool mitten below
If it were part of the multitude, one of the crowd, the single snowflake we’d never see
We would never appreciate it’s delicate beauty or it’s scientific intricacy

A single drop of water can slide down a cheek lending evidence to sadness inside
Creating a track, to mark the course, of emotions we sometimes can’t hide
If it were a piece of a torrent of tears that might stream down a disheartened face
It would not be the first tear defining the rest and setting the course for the race

Was it unclear in the grand scheme of things what the value of a water drop might be
If a single drop of water were but a part of the ocean it would simply be lost at sea

Written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly 11/21/11

snowflake-1893777_1280

Photos by Pixabay

A New Hope

A Poem by Mattie Stepanek – May 1999

A New Hope

I need a hope … a new hope.

A hope that reaches for the stars, and

That does not end in violence or war.

A hope that makes peace on our earth, and

That does not create evil in the world. 

A hope that finds cures for all diseases, and 

That does not make people hurt,

In their bodies, in their hearts,

Or most of all, in their spirits.

I need a hope . . . a new hope,

A hope that inspires me to live, and

To make all these things happen,

So that the whole world can have 

A new hope, too. 

mattie_stepanek
Mattie Stepanek

Depression III

Depression

Alone
even with others,
Lonely
without a reason,
Tears
to be withheld,
Fears of nothing and everything,
Imagination
of things untold,
Predictions
that may come true.
Color?
Every shade of blue.

by Sue Baugh Mattingly 

 

Graphic by Pixabay

POEM

This Winter Day

Why can’t you decide?
First, you let a few white flakes float down
then you drop an anemic sprinkle on the ground.

I decide this cloudy day I can abide
then the sun peeks out from behind the trees.
Winter Day you are such a tease.

At least there is no ice on which to slide
but the Meteorologist says just wait a day
and you’ll need your sleigh.

by Sue Baugh Mattingly – January 26, 2019

First Snow

Poem by Sylvia Mattingly – January 10, 2016

a first kiss of snow

with a first kiss of snow on a january day 

perhaps winter at last has something to say

after patiently biding its time to alight

it has covered the earth with a blanket of white

 

it is not as though winter has come without warning

the animals sensed it on yesterday’s morning

with instinctual nature that leads them to know

when to gather and store for the coming of snow

 

as the whitetail deer hungrily forage on grass

the squirrels in my yard bury acorns en masse

and i watch them and learn from their God given ways

that teach me to ready for the hardest of days

 

now that winter has come in a vision of white

and has hung up its coat in the dark depths of night

we can rest in the peace that the snow comes with reason

and trust without doubt that we need this cold season

 

eventually the coldness of winter will wane

and the passing of time will ensure the spring rain

but for now we must live with a sky full of gray

and a first kiss of snow on a january day

 

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder.” Susan Orlean

The Un-lived Year

The Un-lived Year – Author Unknown

Midnight strikes, and the old year’s gone. We close the tablets we’ve written on. And torn ‘twixt hope and doubt and fear, we open the book of the Un-lived year!

An Un-lived year! Ah, stained with tears are the well-thumbed volumes of other years! Soiled by blunders and black regret are the pages we read with eyelids wet.

But fresh in our hands once more is laid a clean, new book by the Master made. Unmarred are the pages lying there — Twelve new chapters fresh and fair.

It is ours to write the daily tale, of how we conquer – or how we fail; Of struggle and effort and hope that makes like a song in the heart, when the bright day breaks. 

Yes, fresh in our hands with the title clear, is the challenge now of an Un-lived year!


This poem was a favorite of my Mom’s and she read it aloud to me each New Year’s Eve. I am sorry that I do not know its author. 

945429_10201126485755441_1868981562_n
Minnie Alice Sea Baugh Harp

Carol

Carol of the Brown King by Langston Hughes

Of the three Wise Men 

Who came to the King,

One was a brown man, 

So they sing.

 

Of the three Wise Men

Who followed the Star,

One was a brown king

From afar.

 

They brought fine gifts

Of spices and gold

In jewel boxes

Of beauty untold.

 

Unto His humble

Manager they came 

And bowed their heads

In Jesus’ name.

 

Three Wise Men,

One dark like me —–

Part of His 

Nativity.

langston-hughes-1
Langston Hughes              Photo by Bing

Theme graphic by Pixabay

Remember

From “Remember Me” by David Harkins, Copyright 1981

You can shed tears that he is gone or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he’s gone or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back or you can do what he’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on. 

IMG_7401
Raymond F. Mattingly     10/28/1929-12/12/2014

 

XMas Poetry

Poem by Sylvia Mattingly  

Untitled

This the night before Christmas and my house is a mess. Full of presents and Christmas fluff and dust, more or less. My socks are flung over the chair back with care in hopes that through pity, I’ll get a new pair.

I’m eventually nested all snug in my bed, After many a hot flash and my face looking red. With one fan beside me, and one fan up high, The flashes are subsiding and I know sleep is nigh.

But no, not to be, another to tame, And I cuss and I fume as I call it by name . . . Now hot flash, now heatwave, now hell’s breath of fire, Be gone with your torture I have got to retire!

I must get some winks, so when Santa Claus shows, I’ll be fast asleep and having no woes. Oh, who am I kidding, he’ll never get in Cause I’ve capped off the chimney and there’s insulation within. 

The door’s dead bolted and chained . . . I’ll undo all locks . . . If I hope for that chance at a new pair of socks. And maybe some peppermint and a nice box of tea, Just the simple things in life are all that I need.

Oh Santy Claus come, I’ll be waiting for you. For you and your reindeer to do what you do. Be careful out front and watch out for the TARC, and remember that here, you must parallel park.

Your reindeer should be quite safe from the crowd, Cause in the heart of the city, no hunting’s allowed. They can paw at the pavement and snort with full glee, While you’re in my house leaving presents for me. 

I’ll leave out some cookies and coffee and such, So just take your time, no need to rush. Sit down in my rocker and get some good rest Take a slow look around and just be my guest.

I don’t have a lot as you can certainly see But in the eyes of a poor man I’m as rich as can be. And in my own heart, I’m richer than most Because I have all I need and I truly can boast. 

Maybe the stuff you were gonna leave here, Should bring some poor family a whole bunch of cheer, Take them a goose and some wine and warm bread And maybe a nice handmade quilt for their bed. 

Leave them these things because I’m sure they’ve been good Don’t leave any switches or coal chunks or wood, And all that I ask as you leave my front door is that you take all these hot flashes and bring me no more!!

And other than that there just one small request It’s that old pair of socks on the chair, I’ll be blessed Please leave me some new ones without any wear See I don’t ask for much, just comfort and care.

Cause that’s what Christmas is really about . . . It’s not all the bling or the holiday shout, It’s about giving to others and looking around At the many great treasures in life to be found. 

Our friends and our family, our life and our health Are just a few fine examples in our passel of wealth. Now Santy, there’s just one more thing you can do . . . Next year bring a Ford Mustang . . . in the color of blue!!!

santa-2563805_1280

“With many thanks to my inspirations, Clement C. Moore and Dr. Seuss.”           Sylvia Mattingly

Photos by Pixabay

Lights

“Light the Festive Candles” by Aileen Lucia Fisher

Light the first of eight tonight—
the farthest candle to the right.
Light the first and second, too,
when tomorrow’s day is through.
Then light three, and then light four—
every dusk one candle more
Till all eight burn bright and high,
honoring a day gone by
When the Temple was restored,
rescued from the Syrian lord,
And an eight-day feast proclaimed—
The Festival of Lights—well named
To celebrate the joyous day
when we regained the right to pray
to our one God in our own way.

 

Aileen Fisher, “Light the Festive Candles” from Skip Around the Year (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1967). Copyright © 1967, 1985

candles-897776_1280
Photo by Pixabay

December Prayer

December Prayer

By Mattie Stepanek, December 1999

No matter who you are,

Say a prayer this season.

No matter what your faith, 

Say a prayer this season.

No matter how you celebrate,

Say a prayer this season.

There are so many ways

To celebrate faiths,

There are so many faiths

To celebrate life. 

No matter who, 

No matter what, 

No matter how,

You pray. 

Let’s say a prayer

This season,

Together, for peace.

IMG_6987

Ode to Time Change

Guest Poet 

“Ode to Time Change” by Pat Bush, November 4, 2018

My body says, “Wake up! You’re late”!
The lids get heavy, the clock says wait!
It’s not 9:30 but half past eight!
Am I early or am I late?
Sleep deprived or do I feel great?
Oh, how I hate this dance we do,
Is it one or is it two?
Twice a year, I adjust the time.
My body says, “This is a crime”.
Let me be, leave me alone.
Am I eastern or central time zone?
Early to bed, early to rise?
I’m not healthy, wealthy, or wise.
Just trying to adjust my eyes,
To whatever they are supposed to do.
Is it one or is it two?

The paper’s read, the puzzles done.
Hey, I even see the sun!
Full of energy until six or seven, but the body  feels, it’s really eleven.
Then darkness whispers, “Goodnight, friend.
“The day is finished, it is the end”.
The clock reveals a different truth.
It’s still quite early. I cry,” Forsooth”!
The head bows down, then, snaps to attention.
I think I’m in another dimension.
Good night earth, goodnight moon.
What the hell, it’s only noon!

IMG_6269

Guest Poet

autumn

summer fades into autumn

as it slowly drifts away

past fields of purple ironweed

and the smell of fresh mown hay

where cattails rise from soggy ground

and sunflowers nod their heads

and cottonwoods resign themselves

as their leaves begin to shed

so as the winds begin to change

and autumn shuffles in

summer fades with the passing days

and a different feel begins

summer has only a little while

to wear her robe of green

then let it drop and watch it fall

along with the falling leaves

 

Poem By Sylvia L. Mattingly 

September 22, 2016  

 

0821181433a
Sunflower Photo Courtesy of Gerri Nelson 

On the Day I Die

A poem written by John Pavolitz

On the Day I Die

On the day I die a lot will happen.
A lot will change.
The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.
The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.
The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.
All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.
The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.
The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.  
All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.
My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.
Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.
My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.
The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.
All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.
The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.
These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.
Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.
On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.
They will feel a void.
They will feel cheated.
They will not feel ready.
They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.
And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.
I know this from those I love and grieve over.
And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.
I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.
Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.
They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.
Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

 It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.
Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you believe matters, because on the day you die, much of it simply won’t.
Yes, you and I will die one day.
But before that day comes: let us live.

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Guest Poet

Lazy Part of Summer

IMG_7850

patches of queen anne’s lace

dance across fields of fescue

during the lazy part of summer,

their lacey white umbels

bobbling on spindly stems 

as they catch 

the dry august breeze  

stands of purple iron weed 

compliment sunflowers of yellow 

in the palm of summer’s hand,

unyielding on rigid stalks

as they thrive

in the grip of heat

hillsides of vibrant green

lose their emerald luster

over the passing of time,

their brilliance dulling

as they falter

under shortening days 

 

stream beds run dry

and intermittent pockets of water

lie in shallow languid pools,

inviting jesus bugs to walk 

above pinchered crawdads

that crawl across the flat rocky bottom

IMG_6359

the old iron railroad trestle

sits solidly on stilted legs

that rise skyward over the complacent stream,

time and life seem suspended 

as they slow to a crawl

during the lazy part of summer

“lazy part of summer” Written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly  August 10, 2018

IMG_7902

 

Russian People

st-petersburg-2066974_1280

Women 

While in Russia I met many interesting people. There were men who were bus drivers and pastors and volunteers, but it was some of the women who I really felt that I got to know. The interpreter, Natasha (yes, really, Natasha) was a beautiful young woman in her early twenties. She never lost patience with my questions and never seemed to tire of explaining what it was like to be Russian. She was proud of her country and especially that unlike when she was young, now she has the opportunity to meet travelers from all over the world.

Then there was Maria who was about thirty or so, it was very hard to tell because she wore a scarf that appeared to cover a shaved head. Her five-year-old son, Eugenia, was with her. He was wearing undershorts and a soiled button up shirt. After talking with her through Natasha for a couple of days, I learned of her sad history.

She said that she had been born and raised in the Islamic tradition, but was no longer sure of that status. Her mother died when she was a child and her husband and father were both recently deceased and she had no “papers” to prove that she was a citizen. The government had taken her father’s apartment and she was left without a home or income. She and Eugenia had been living in a cemetery for weeks at this point with some food provided by a friend. She was looking for work and offered to clean the church (Central Baptist of St. Petersburg, membership of 1,200) for food for her son.

There were many older women who dutifully cleaned the church, so there was no work there for Maria. They were caring, giving women who had little to give, but soon though, Maria and her son had clothes and food and a few other necessities. There were those who offered to help her in trying to obtain the papers necessary for livelihood. I had no way of knowing the outcome for Maria and Eugenia. I look at their photos and wonder what their lives are like today.

Unfortunately, there was another group of women in Russia who worked in what some call the “oldest profession,” prostitution. Apparently many women were all over the country trying to live by selling intimate services. Below is one of the cards left throughout the hotel where I stayed. This is not a profession. And, it is not a choice many women make other than out of necessity. Based upon recent news from Moscow, the situation has not changed for this population of Russian women. 

fullsizeoutput_1694

Apartments/Schools

In St. Petersburg it seemed that everyone lived in an apartment. I saw no private homes, although I am sure there were some grand ones for those high up in the government, mafia members and others with access to wealth. 

I walked through an apartment complex that must have housed at least a thousand residences. There were no sidewalks, simply paths through the knee-high grass. There was a school that could only be identified by a couple of crude pieces of playground equipment, otherwise, the school looked like another apartment building. 

I visited a couple from Kentucky who lived in a ninth floor apartment and the elevator was out of service. I was rewarded by seeing a mama cat and her kittens living on the seventh-floor landing, making the climb work the effort. 

qVSkzCxaSL+ExCy+AKfaAg

Pushkin stock-vector-vector-portrait-alexander-pushkin-471393209

Alexander Pushkin was a poet and playwright who lived from 1799-1837 in St. Petersburg. There was a little town named after him and I was fortunate enough to be able to visit not only the park-like village but also a small hospital there. The facility looked more like a US nursing home of years ago. The beds were small and uncomfortable looking. Many of the patients who chatted away in Russian with clueless visitors looked old but it may have been due more to life conditions than chronological age.

One thing that I will never forget in that hospital was a very large printed, framed portrait of our then current US President, William J. Clinton.

Part 4 of 6

Theme graphic in title by Pixabay

Soul 3

dove

David

Born one year ago to spend a few brief moments in the arms of his parents and then forever in our hearts.

He never smiled, never smelled the spring air, nor felt sunshine on his face.
He will never blow out birthday candles nor ride a trike, but he is loved, and
He never cried, never lived in earth’s pollution.
He never heard the word “no,” nor felt the sting of discipline.
He will never be sick, break an arm, nor scrape a knee.

David was, without reason or plan, transported from his mother’s safe, loving body to the arms of Jesus, who weeps for our sorrow. We hurt for our loss, but are comforted by the assurance of heaven.

 

David Tyler Clay Puckett Born April 9, 1987. Parents: Allison & Stan Puckett. Poem written by Grandmother 4/9/88                                              

fullsizeoutput_160e

Part 3 of 7

Photos by Pixabay

Books 4

Reader Feedback

fullsizeoutput_13f7

First Book Memories, Favorite Books and Authors

So many of us remember our reader, Dick and Jane from first grade! Nancy Drew mysteries are another favorite among Crooked Creek readers. This chart lists your first memories and your favorites according to comments made regarding the past three posts: 

1st Book Memory

“A Tree for Peter”  by Kate Seredy

Dick & Jane (elementary school book)

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Favorite Books

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Scriptures from the “Good Book”

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross

Favorite Authors

Mary Higgins Clark

Harland Coban

Shakespeare

Nickolas Sparks

Jodi Picoult

James Patterson

Francine Rivers

Dean Koontz

Stephen King

Lisa Gardner

Access, Storage and Disposal

Most of you indicated that you love books today even though many of you did not have books readily available in your family growing up. Some obtained books from the library or a “Bookmobile” operated in rural areas. I, too, remember those visiting libraries, but I do not if they still exist. An interesting concept today for urban readers, according to one of you is the placement of small repositories where books may be borrowed or added.

You are a generous group, mostly passing your books on to others or donating them. Some of you resale at Half-Price Bookstores. And, it seems that there are always books with which we cannot part. Only one person shared how their books are arranged and that was by alphabetical order. Readers were about 50 to 50% in preference of paper books versus electronic or audio books.

fullsizeoutput_13f9
Pixabay Photo

Genre

Whether you are reading for self-improvement, to learn new skills, to broaden your mind with history or poetry or simply to be entertained or thrilled you are engaging in an activity that will forever be a part of your life. Even if, like one reader, we need to keep a list of the books read so that we don’t buy them a second time, there are passages that affect us in ways of which we are unaware. 

Thank You Pat, Lula, Rose, Kay, Sylvia and Others

I am honored that this blog is one of the things that you read!  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”  Louisa May Alcott

Part 4 of 5

She

Sharing Time

For well over forty years I have been in possession of a poem handwritten by a patient when I was a nursing student. I have never shared it because I do not know whether it is original or if he simply copied someone else’s poem. My guess has always been that it was not the latter. Today I have again made serious efforts to find the poem on the Internet. I’ve Googled keywords and even whole stanzas without finding it. I’ve researched poetry sites as well without results. 

Another concern I’ve had is patient confidentiality, but since I will not be revealing anything about the patient and I don’t even remember his name, I believe that it is safe to post the poem. 

Over the years I have read these pages several times, trying to understand the poem better, trying hard to remember what the person looked like who gave it to me or what he said at that moment. I cannot recapture that scene. I remember that I was assigned to his care for at least several days. I recall a few things of interest that surrounded his hospital stay and certainly his diagnosis. Always, I have felt that I was entrusted with something beautiful and that it needed to be shared. 

That is why I am posting it here for you. I believe that it needs to be heard. I look forward to what you think of the poem, “She.”


Note: Unfortunately this WordPress platform will not allow the four line stanza formatting used by the poet. The poet’s words have been transcribed exactly as written except one word which I was unable to make out and have marked by “????”. Where there is an apparent misspelling or wrong use of a word these have been noted by “sic”. Punctuation is also transcribed exactly as handwritten. 


 

She 

Sometimes I see her for you see

She’s the part of reality

Walking in twilight she’s so fair

With shinning eyes, the stars her hair

Sometimes I see her walking there

In starry tiered imaginings

Where dreams are born & if you care,

Go find the one with stars for hair. 

For those who care, theres (sic) an easy way

One takes the road mid night & day

To places lying everywhere

That just exist for those who care

From there they go inside their soul

To see themselves & others whole

To find themselves & if they do

They may even find her too

For she’s as real as she can be

Yet not for every eye to see

Just how to meet one so acclaimed

Just find her first then ask her name

II

I met her, was it yesterday?

Between the mountains & the see (sic)

Traveling for to find a place

Where I could bad thoughts erase

The Timeless plane of many lands

A place that held no grasping hands

I came upon a city fair

And there she was beyond compare

I told her we could travel far

To lands beyond the farthest star

To places ever springtime fair

Where even I would have no cares

But she said, “No, why can’t you see?”

“That all there is lies here with me

“And seeker, through (sic) you have no fame

“You have to do but ask my name”

I looked at her then softly left

For then I knew she placed me free

In a quiet grove I softly wept

For starry eyed seekers who were like me

That woeful day I left that place

Last saw the sunshine on her face

But under the starry midnight sky

I often stop to wonder why

And then with smiling face I stare

And see the starlight of her hair. 

Yet now I see her everyday

On every walk, in every way

But now she turns her face from me

Why? I know yet cannot say

For if I stopped then she would come

Thus giving all of what she is

Yet I cannot for I can see

I’ve gone too far to stop just yet

What do you say seeker, isn’t it sweet

to see the sun rise in the sky

to the right of where the shadows lie?

To close your mouth and blind your eyes?

Yes, try to climb that mountain where 

You were born & had no cares

You’ll see the walls & hateful stares

of the ones above you left behind

You’ll dream about the sunlit skies

Your own little world you once held dear

Your place is lost, you’ve wondered why

And so you learn that which I fear

Your place in life I’ve never known

To step to mine you’ve never tried

And so I thread my path above 

And, now and then, say this to you

Just find a place & sleep in the sun

And tell yourself you’re (sic) seeking’s done

She doesn’t exist for eye to see

Just a dream that never could be

So part of her is just called life

And part of that is sweet and fair

And that you find with much to spare

Yes, you can see it everywhere

Yet part of her cries all the time

It’s exploited, raped and bind (sic)

To racks where greed can find the time

To twist out life & leave just sins

And lastly she is partly love

A part of her most never known

The part of her that’s most abused

A part of her most vilely used

Look seeker see her raked (sic) with pain 

Which (????) braid her starlit hair

to make a rope to hang us with

They hate us for they know she cares

And then she smiles and so is free

For she is all that can ever be

Now as then in Babylon

The spirit of eternity

And so existing around the bend

Kept out of sight from those obsessed

She’s there for those who seek her out

Who want the curse of happiness

For they must share her loveliness

And they must bear her loneliness

And for the sake of living yet

Must die a little to forget

 

tfEdls3SRE+6isx7nW0+hg

Author unknown by blogger.

Crooked Creek makes no claims to ownership of this poem.  

 

2018

Happy New Year 

New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the year ending but also to look forward to the one about to be born at the stroke of midnight. As I write I know it is already 2018 where some of you live in other time zones and on the other side of the world, so it is not at one magical instant that we simultaneously experience this event. Regardless, within a span of a few hours, we all contemplate and celebrate a new year.

I have always liked new beginnings, fresh starts to “get it right” and I imagine that there are many of you who feel the same. Isn’t that why we make New Year’s resolutions year after year? I used to love the fresh clean pages of the new calendar in January but now they are a thing of the past for most of us. With our electronic calendars, we can enter or delete appointments, goals, and plans too easily perhaps leaving no trace of unfulfilled hopes.

Regardless, in a few hours, it will be a new year all around the globe and we all have another chance to do better, to get it right. What are your plans? Are you making resolutions? If so are they serious about world peace perhaps or attaining a new educational degree? Or typical, such as to lose a few pounds? I’ve learned that resolutions are an exercise in futility for me so I no longer set myself up to fail.

I have been asked in the past few days by two individuals what my plans are for 2018 and this is different I believe from asking what my resolutions are. Even before asked I had given thought to how to best invest my time with an emphasis on what I most enjoy. I know there will be wasted hours and perhaps even days, but by keeping focused daily on what I have identified as most significant I believe that I have a better chance to see 2018 end with a sense of having lived.

 

The Unlived Year
Midnight strikes and the old year's gone.
We close the tablets we've written on.
And torn 'twist hope and doubt and fear,
we open the book of the unlived year!

An unlived year! Ah, stained with tears
are the well-thumbed volumes of other years!
Soiled by blunders and black regret 
are the pages we read with eyelids wet. 

But fresh in our hands once more is laid
a clean, new book by the Master made.
Unmarred are the pages lying there--
Twelve new chapters fresh and fair.

It is ours to write the daily tale,
of how we conquer - or how we fail;
Of struggle and effort and hope that makes 
like a song in the heart, when the bright day breaks.

Yes, fresh in our hands with the title clear, 
is the challenge now of an unlived year!
Author Unknown

My Mother loved the poem (above) entitled “The Unlived Year” and each New Year’s Eve she would read it once again. I am looking now at a copy of that poem which was in her Bible when she died. Although the poem’s point is that we have an unlived year before us, I can’t help but think of it in another way. What if we looked back on the year behind us and realize it was unlived? How sad to have fretted over the trivial, to have reacted to things we cannot change and therefore to have missed opportunities to actually live. I plan to be more consciously aware of the gift that is this coming year and I do have plans to live it to the fullest. 

pf-2018-3031241_1280
Theme Photo by Pixabay

May your 2018 be filled with love and peace.

May our world be lit by harmony and understanding among all of creation.  

 

Paths

Paths, Poems, and Plans

We have had some fun with poems lately.   Poem Challenge

I’ve never been a poet in any sense of the word, but once in a while, I do write something that I call poetry. I’m sure that you do as well. It can be a few simple lines but it means something to you and you write it down to preserve and to perhaps share with others. I also like to read poetry blogs and there are a few that I follow.  One is sentimental, another is harsh revealing pain and turmoil. Each is a glimpse into someone’s life and if you are interested, let me know and I’ll provide links. 

Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be. Poems don’t have to rhyme for our purposes. Just write and don’t think about those terms you learned in school such as “couplet” or “stanza” that may keep us mute. If you insist on being a proper poet, i.e. being further intimidated, go ahead and check out this site with 37 poetry terms such as “hendecasyllable.” http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/common-poetry-terms.

Recently a friend gave me a book containing poems written by Matthew J.T. Stepanek, a big name for a small boy called “Mattie.” I vaguely remembered hearing of this child several years ago, but I had no idea of the extent of his talent and his insight. Perhaps you are familiar but if not you may learn about his amazing life here (or just Google his name).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattie_Stepanek

In the book given to me, Hope through Heartsongs written by Mattie, my favorite poem is entitled “Hope for Life’s Journey.” 

Someday.
I'd like to see what's down every road.
I'd like to travel across
Every highway and every byway.
I'd like to explore
Every mountain pass and every sandy trail.
I'd like to follow
Every straight route and every winding path.
Someday.
I'd like to understand
From where all things come,
And to what all things are destined.
Someday.
Even though I am sure of my lesson-
That we are all hoping to the same place-
I'd like to take the time
To travel and explore and follow,
So that I can really see and understand
What's down every road. 

Hope for Life’s Journey written by Matthew J. T. Stepanek (1990-2004) in August 2001

Do you have Mattie’s curiosity for what is down every road, every path? If so please don’t wait. Plans are important, dreams are great . . . but without action, they remain just that. To make them reality we must exert an effort, we must act, we must step out. Who knows where those roads and paths will take us until we travel them? As Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Frost had two choices. We live in a world with many more options. We have access to superhighways, shipping channels, airlines and global destinations. There are far more than we can ever choose, but would it not be a shame if we took the same ones day after day and then finally one day left behind feeble plans and faded dreams that went nowhere?

Some of the paths I’ve chosen to follow and explore recently. 

Challenge Accepted 2

Challenge Accepted 2

The Crooked Creek Poem Challenge was an idea born over four months ago on Facebook when Cindi Carman used George Ella Lyon’s poem as a template to write her own “Where I’m From” poem. Cindi, an original follower of this blog, has graciously agreed to share that poem here. 

Version 2

Where I’m From by Cindi Carman

I am from black crushed pepper,
from Irish butter and Yukon potatoes.
I am from sunshine mixed with blue skies and silver linings,
from lightening and fierce winds.
I am from the pines, red oaks and sugar maples
from trees that whisper in the night.
I am from family dinners and traveling casseroles,
from Bessie Viola and Mary Leona.
I am from never give up and be thankful for everything,
from help others who are less fortunate.
I am from hold your shoulders back and sit up straight
and you are owned by the company you keep.
I am from roller coasters at Kings Island
and swimming at Otter Creek.
I am from city streets and safe neighborhoods,
from the bluegrass distilleries and rich farmlands.
I am from Jam cake and fried green tomatoes,
from Mom’s fried pork chops and Dad’s Army soup.
I am from Barbie dolls, record players and Captain Kangaroo,
a big white basket on the front of my bicycle,
from cookies hidden under my Mrs. Beasley doll.
I am from the laughter of cousins chasing after lightning bugs.
I am from diaries, scrapbooks and antenna T.V.,
from family and laughter and love, I am.


You are still invited to share your own story of origin by using Lyons’ poem as a template. See the Poem Challenge post (July 29) or click on link for more information: https://www.sausd.us/cms/lib/CA01000471/Centricity/Domain/3043/I%20Am%20From%20Poem.pdf

You may add your poem to the Comments Section (remember that + bubble at lower right of your screen) as did another reader, Gerri Nelson who is from the Pacific Coast.

Thanks for your participation Dear Readers!

Challenge Accepted

Thank you to Syl Mattingly who submitted this poem in response to the challenge of July 29, to write a personal version of the poem by George Ella Lyon, “Where I’m From.”

Where I’m From

i am from white clover . . .
from lightening bugs and night-crawlers

i am from the soil
in the garden
(rich and earthy . . .
it smelled like Grandma’s root cellar)

i am from the mulberry tree
and
the water maple
whose roots i played on . . .
encircling and cradling me

i’m from Paint by Number Jesus
and
Davey and Goliath . . .
chewing gun chains and stamp collections

i’m from the golden rule
and the salt of the earth

from “mother may i,” swing sets
and welded tricycle handlebars

I’m from Fisherville,
wooded hillsides and Floyd’s Fork . . .
a white horse named Cricket

from the days when the creek rose,
floodwater filling the house
and my Mother crying as we watched

I am from the journals that i wrote,
revealing my thoughts,
a flood of feelings and emotions
dredged from my soul

i am from that season
when nature enveloped me
and kept me hidden, safe within those wooded hills

by Sylvia L. Mattingly, August 7, 2017

IMG_5296

 

 

 

Poem Challenge

Where Are You From?

Some time ago a Facebook friend*, who is also a follower of this blog, challenged us to write about where we are from. She suggested that we use as a template a poem written by Kentucky’s 2015-2016 poet laureate, George Ella Lyon. 

Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins, 

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. 

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening, 

it tasted like beets.) 

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses, 

          from Imogene and Alafair. 

I’m from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons, 

from Perk up! and Pipe down! 

I’m from He restoreth my soul

          with a cottonball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch, 

fried corn and strong coffee. 

From the finger my grandfather lost 

          to the auger, 

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures, 

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams. 

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

 

I took the challenge and in a few short moments had no difficulty writing about where I’m from. I’m not a poet, but it was a wonderful exercise in turning memories over in one’s mind. It can also make us contemplate the impact our beginnings had on where we are today. 

Where I’m From by Sue Mattingly

I am from creek bottoms, 

crawfish, and chiggers. 

I am from an old apple tree,

Under which my rope swing hung.

I am from the hollyhocks 

in my Grandmother’s yard

from which she helped me to 

fashion fancy dolls.

I’m from biscuits and jam, 

      and from a galvanized tub for Saturday baths. 

I’m from water bucket and dipper

          and from the milking parlor down the road, 

from spunk and playing April Fool’s 

Jokes on my Grandfather! 

I’m from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

          sung with Pat on the front porch swing

          and Vacation Bible School every summer.

I’m from Crooked Creek and Anderson County

From the front yard so carefully mown by my Dad

using a push mower without a motor

and the four room house Mother kept spic and span.

Against the front fence leaned my brother’s bike

which I sat on and pretended I could ride

when I heard a car coming down the gravel road.

I am from those times —

and yet feel like a foreigner —

when I try to return.

10626461_10204660227096766_2995762550384219072_n

I challenge you to write your own and I would love it if you shared your poem with us in the comments section here. I look forward to reading and to learning more about your beginnings. Thank you and a special thank you to *Cindi Carmen. 

If you are interested in reading more about Lyon see: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html

Death – to Bury or Not

img_4018

To Bury, Cremate, Donate, Plant – Disposal of Human Remains

Another decision that must be made concerns disposal of bodily remains. For many years burial in a family or church cemetery was the norm, however that is changing for both environmental and economic reasons. In 2015 cremation rate in the US was 48.6% and expected to rise each year into the future. Rates vary across the country with over 60% in the West and as low as 25% in southern states.  There are other options, of course which actually increase the cost, such as cryogenics, ashes blasted into space or adding ashes to an artificial reef in an ocean. 

Cemeteries 

Interment in a cemetery has fallen into disfavor due to cost, but also because of what many see as misdirected use of land. While I personally prefer cremation and scattering of ashes (also called cremains) back into nature, I must admit that I have always found cemeteries interesting to visit. In old cemeteries I would go further and say that reading tombstones can be fascinating. I know that I am not alone, because many books have been written on the subject including:  9781586853211_p0_v1_s192x300 “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography” by Douglas Keister  and  “Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks 1850-1950” by Abby Burnett which was reviewed in The Courier Journal  in November 2015. Some of my favorite epitaphs from this book are these: “Killed by a live wire” (1905), “Revenge is my motto” (1869) and “This can’t be death. I feel too good” (1906).

 

When I was in Russia a couple of years after the fall of the Soviet Union, I toured a large old cemetery that was, according to custom there, divided into sections by profession or status. There were sections for the arts with subsections containing poets, musicians and actors. fullsizeoutput_a21.jpeg There were others for military, government officials, Communist Party members, working class (the proletariat) and even the Mafia.

 

I noticed many tombstones that bore the skull and cross bones symbol and inquired of the interpreter what that meant. Her response? “They’re dead”.     IMG_4036.JPG

The skull and cross bones, while perhaps peculiar to Russia, are part of the monument period of Terror which represented symbols of fear of the afterlife. This was followed by the Romantic fullsizeoutput_a13.jpeg and then Personalization Periods.  The Contemporary period in which we now live, leads to what are often attempts at humor. A word of warning about being too creative however, as what is funny today may be confusing or fall flat when it has become outdated. A couple of examples come to mind: A monument depicting a rotary and corded telephone simply said, “Jesus Called”. I’ve seen photos of others that show a calculator, an expired parking meter and even a brownie recipe. 

One of my favorite tombstones is from Clay County, TN which explains that the deceased was “killed by bushwhackers” in 1862 in neighboring Fentress County. Unfortunately the photos taken and provided for this post by Steve Baugh have been lost due to my error.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it” Mark Twain. 

 


Note 1/1/18:  Another Option for Disposal    https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/06/infinity-suit/

Death – Funerals

Funerals

Funerals are not high on anyone’s list of favorite social events. Well, there may be a few exceptions. One of my sweet aunts, who will not be named here, lived a block or two from the funeral home in her small town. When she saw activity indicating visitation or a pending funeral service at the establishment, she would dress in her Sunday clothes and walk to join the mourners. She was not being nosy, there was every reason to expect she would know the deceased. She had lived in this rural Kentucky County her whole life and knew just about everyone. She especially liked the young funeral director who always welcomed her with a hug. 

Options

The funeral home industry and its traditions have changed greatly over the years. There was a time when the deceased was embalmed at home and “laid out” in the parlor for the wake which usually lasted three days and nights. Just as the wake was transferred to a formal “funeral parlor” the venue of the funeral itself has moved, in most cases, from houses of worship. Today an abbreviated period of “visitation and viewing” has become the norm and funerals are “celebrations of life”. When visiting a funeral home today one likely encounters videos of the deceased on flat screens strategically placed throughout the parlor. Often there are photos and collages and posters honoring the life that has passed. So called “theme” funerals may focus on the deceased’s favorite sports team, hobby or profession. The coffin is often closed or not present at all or there may be an urn containing ashes. The memorial service can be planned for a time in the future that is more suitable to the family’s circumstances as it is no longer necessary to have all this occur immediately after the death. This delay allows the family to be passed the initial shock of the loss and to more fully receive offerings of support and sympathy. 

So, there are traditions, there are religious cannons, local laws and there are one’s personal preferences. Your preference, what would you like your final event on this earth to be like? While you are reading this, still capable of making important decisions is the time to communicate your wishes. This can be part of the discussion when you have “the talk” https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ with your family. It is also helpful to have a few things written down, such as favorite poems, music, speakers. If there are things you feel strongly about clearly document those and if you have reason to doubt your wishes will be honored, they should be included in your Will, which is binding. 

Many people complete their plans formally and even pay for their funerals in advance of need. Whether planning your own funeral or a loved one’s it is critical that you ask questions of the funeral home staff and have concrete information. One common misconception is embalming is required by law. It is not and electing to not have embalming can save a significant amount of money. Embalming is a mysterious process to most of us and because of our reluctance to think about death, we often do not want to know what actually takes place in order to preserve the appearance of a corpse for just a little extra time. Further, the impact upon the environment by use of toxic chemicals can be significant. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) embalming provides no public health benefit. It also has no roots in most religions, including Christianity. For more information on the actual process you may reference http://www.fcasocal.org/embalming-facts.html

The funeral or memorial service, besides reflecting the life that has ended, should be a comfort for survivors. Those who are part of a religious community are comforted by common beliefs and the expectation of an afterlife. Music can be heartbreaking or inspiring. November 18, 2016, The New York Times asked readers what their deathbed playlist preferences would be. The range, not surprisingly varied from hard rock to classics. Probably the same music we would enjoy hearing in our last days or hours of life, would be appropriate for our service, too, as long as it would not be offensive or hurtful in some way to others.  Most of us recall fondly at least one song from each of our loved ones’ funerals. Poems are frequently read that reflect the deceased’s philosophy or special interests. A eulogy may be provided by a close friend or family member. Such a tribute should be written out so if the person delivering the words becomes too emotional to proceed, the minister or other person officiating can be prepared to read it. 

beautiful-bible-and-more

Eulogy

This is the eulogy I delivered at my stepfather’s funeral. I was pleased to be able to honor his memory and after all these many years I still feel his life can be a lesson for those of us living today. 

We are here to honor Leroy’s memory. Each of us knew him on a different plane. He may have been your neighbor, your customer or friend, a relative, by birth or by choice. 

Whether you knew him for eighty years or eight, you no doubt, knew him to be a good person, an honest man to be trusted and one who loved the land and took pride in his profession of dairy farmer.

He was many other things too. SECURE IN WHO HE WAS, holding no old fashioned gender roles – the same hands that worked the farm washed dishes and cooked a mean casserole.

GENTLE – he watched birds, fed kittens, loved to see magnolias bloom. Small children were given his full attention, whether playing a silly game or observing an earthworm on the sidewalk after a rain.

TOLERANT – he had convictions, but allowed us ours.

A ROMANTIC – taking his bride to Niagara Falls and each anniversary giving her one red rose for each year of their marriage.

FAITHFUL – to his church and more importantly to his Lord. 

And he was, of course, many other things, but there is one last attribute I want to share with you. I learned this about Leroy after the death of his only son, Bobby.

He was a very PRACTICAL person. Even though he grieved his losses, he did not allow those losses to steal the happiness he was offered by each new day of life. He did not deplete his energies agonizing about things he could not change. I think he would remind us of that today. 

fullsizeoutput_63


Next time we will look at one more remaining decision, disposal of remains. This will not conclude the list of things that must be decided upon at the time of one’s death, but will have covered the most crucial ones. 

I Am a Tree

A tree, old and weathered
I bear not leaves,
but the marks of time.
On my limbs you can see
rope scars where swings used to be.
I am a tree.

A tree, tall though bent
I bear not fruit,
but the signs of time.
On my trunk, crudely carved,
initials and hearts you can see.
I am a tree.

A tree, in winter I appear cold and dead,
but deep in the earth my roots are warm with life.
They feed my tired trunk, give strength to my weakened limbs
and the sap of life itself which awaits the returning spring.
I long to be renewed, to return to the real me.
I am a living tree.

 

Written 1992 by Brenda Sue Baugh Mattingly