Posted by: ktzefr | April 12, 2017

The Migration of a Lilac

Lilacs; Photo:KFawcett


My grandparents raised five kids

in a wood frame house off a dirt road

up a hollow in Appalachia. 

They grew corn and potatoes,

tomatoes and beans, in a valley between

the hills where a wide meadow stretched

all the way to the river.


What did those kids do with their long

summer days?  What did they dream?

Did they ever wonder what life was like

on the other side of the mountain?


Some left, some stayed, some came back.

For a long time after the house fell,

the pear tree still stood in the back yard.

The poplar up on the mountain, the one with

my parents’ initials carved into its thick trunk,

still stands almost a century later.


Granny’s lilac bush lives five hundred miles away

from the place where it was planted. 

As a twig, it migrated to the city in my mother’s suitcase,

and blooms, again, in my front yard.


Posted by: ktzefr | April 10, 2017

Blowin’ the Bubble Gum Sun…

Locos parade, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett


Monday.  Back to work and school, to lessons and meetings, to the mundane and…maybe, the extraordinary.  Start the week with a poem or two or three — be serious, be silly — and see what happens.





“Jackrabbits, green onions and witches stew

3 dollars & upside down lemons & you

Dinky planet on a skateboard of dynamite

O, what to do, chile peppers, Mrs. Oops

Dr. What, Mr. Space Station unscrewed

The Redbook of Ants says you better run

No sireee, LOL, blowin’ my bubble gum sun”

~ Juan Felipe Herrera (US Poet Laureate), “Jackrabbits, Green Onions & Witches Stew”


Stop.  Let the rush go by.  Find your thread and hold on!  I love this poem by William Stafford.



“There’s a thread you follow.  It goes among

things that change.  But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.”

~ William Stafford, “The Way It Is”


Dead ends.  Unseen paths.  Baffled minds.  The struggles we overcome often provide us with a song — as in Wendell Berry’s lovely poem (below) about real work.

Nature, too, sometimes gives us something to sing about.  Today, the Kwanzan cherry trees are in bloom!


Kwanzan Cherry; Photo:KFawcett

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

~ Wendell Berry, “The Real Work”


Posted by: ktzefr | April 7, 2017

Freedom and the Sea…Friday’s poem

Neruda’s “The Poet’s Obligation” seemed to fit this Friday morning.  He is speaking to everyone who is not listening to the sea today.  Me?  I’m listening to a lawn mower at one of the houses on my block.  Before that someone’s car alarm went off twice.  But the birds have been singing in the snowball bush outside my window and inside — the beautiful Spanish Celtic music of Carlos Nuñez.


St. John USVI; Photo:KFawcett

The Poet’s Obligation

“To whoever is not listening to the sea

this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up

in house or office…

to him I come, and without speaking or looking

I arrive and open the door of his prison,

and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,

a long rumble of thunder adds itself

to the weight of the planet and the foam,

the groaning rivers of the ocean rise,

the star vibrates quickly in its corona

and the sea beats, dies, and goes on beating.

…So, through me, freedom and the sea

will call in answer to the shrouded heart.”


Note: These passages come from Neruda: On the Blue Shore of Silence/A La Orilla Azul del Silencio, which was published to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Pablo Neruda.  

Posted by: ktzefr | April 6, 2017

“Questions in My Eyelashes” — Thursday’s Poem

I love the eyelash image from Neruda’s “The First Sea” because it surprises; it’s not an image that pops readily into mind.  But, at the same time, the feeling is recognizable.  I recall my own childhood dreams and questions and urge to break free and expand my world. 

One of my favorite things to do is hike in the Virgin Islands and sometimes the forest can be so dense that you lose sight of the sea, and then you round a bend or a rock or a huge, old acacia tree and there it is!  Like a new discovery each time…

US Virgin Islands National Park; Photo:KFawcett

The First Sea

“I discovered the sea.  From Carahue

the river Cautin flowed to its estuary

and, in the paddleboats,

dreams and another life began to possess me,

leaving questions in my eyelashes.

…I broke free of my roots.

My country grew in size.

My world of wood split open.

The prison of the forests

opened a green door,

letting in the wave and all its thunder,

and, with the shock of the sea,

my life widened out into space.”


El Primer Mar

“Descubrí el mar.  Salia de Carahue

el Cautín a su desembocadura

y en los barcos de rueda comenzaron

los sueños y la vida a detenerme,

a dejar su pregunta en mis pestañas.

…salí de las raíces,

se me agrandó la patria,

es rompió de la unidad de la madera:

la cárcel de los bosques

abrió una puerta verde

por donde entró la ola con su trueno

y se extendió mi vida,

con un golpe de mar, en el espacio.”


Read the complete poem, “The First Sea.”

Note: These passages come from Neruda: On the Blue Shore of Silence/A La Orilla Azul del Silencio, which was published to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Pablo Neruda.  


Posted by: ktzefr | April 4, 2017

Poems by the Sea, 2

I love the sea any time of day, any time of the year.  But I think early morning and full-moon nights may be the best.  Here, Neruda’s poem, “It is Born” —


“Here I came to the very edge

where nothing at all needs saying,

everything is absorbed through weather and the sea,

and the moon swam back,

its rays all silvered,

and time and again the darkness would be broken

by the crash of a wave,

and every day on the balcony of the sea,

wings open, fire is born,

and everything is blue again like morning.”


Morning, Bethany Beach, DE; Photo:KFawcett




Yo  aquí vine a los límites

en donde no hay que decir nada,

todo se aprende con tiempo y océano,

y volvía la luna,

sus líneas plateadas

y cada vez se rompía la sombra

con un golpe de ola

y cada día en el balcón del mar

abre las alas, nace el fuego

y todo sigue azul como mañana.”


Note: These passages come from Neruda: On the Blue Shore of Silence/A La Orilla Azul del Silencio, which was published to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Pablo Neruda.  

Posted by: ktzefr | April 3, 2017

Poems by the Sea…

A poem a day

keeps the doctor away –

like autumn apples

Apples are good for the body; poetry is good for the soul.  This week, in honor of National Poetry Month, I’ve selected a few passages from the poems of Pablo Neruda.  His favorite place was his house by the sea at Isla Negra, and all of the poems this week are about the sea.  I’ve chosen photos of some of my own special places by the sea to go along with them.  (Follow the link at the bottom of the page to read the entire poem.)

St. John, US Virgin Islands National Park; Photo:KFawcett

“I need the sea because it teaches me.

I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,

if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,

or only its harsh voice or its shining

suggestion of fishes and ships.

The fact is that until I fall asleep,

in some magnetic way I move in

the university of the waves.”


“Necesito del mar porque me enseña:

no sé si aprendo música o conciencia:

no sé si es ola sola o ser profundo

o sólo ronca voz o deslumbrante

suposición de peces y navios.

El hecho es que hasta cuando estoy dormido

de algún modo magnético circulo

en la Universidad del oleaje.”


From “The Sea”/“El Mar” by Pablo Neruda

Posted by: ktzefr | March 31, 2017

Scaly-napped Pigeon in a Gumbo Limbo Tree

Every morning this fellow and/or some of his friends cooed outside my cottage in the British Virgins.  In the tropics their morning song is the next best sound to the night rains.  Although the scaly-naped pigeon is common in most of the Caribbean, is any bird truly ordinary?  This one is arboreal, spending most of its time in the trees, eating seeds and leaf buds and even small snails.   

Here he sits in a gumbo limbo tree.  The locals call this the “tourist tree” because its bark is reddish and peels like the skin of tourists who stay too long in the sun.  Zoom and look at those red eyes!

Scaly-naped pigeon, British Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

I collect birds.  Not real birds.  Pictures of birds.  Memories of birds.  I keep tabs on the birds I’ve known — where they come from, where they go, what it feels like to look into the eyes of a bird.   A bird sees everything at once in total focus.  Whereas the human eye is globular and must adjust to varying distances, the bird’s eye is flat and can take in everything at once in a single glance.  Ordinary? 

I always wanted to fly like a bird, not strapped in a seat but with “wings” flapping free.  For years I’ve had a recurring dream of flying — or, at least, trying to fly.  But, even in the dream, I’m more chicken than bird.  Not “chicken” as in afraid, but I fly like a chicken — literally.  It’s more like fly jumping.  I leap into the air and fly for a second or two but then fall back to the ground, like a fat chicken trying to flee the coop.  I can’t stay aloft.  That’s ordinary.


Have an extraordinary weekend!




Posted by: ktzefr | March 22, 2017

The Happiness of Small Things

I bought a vacuum cleaner today.  It’s a newfangled, lightweight machine that is a 2 in 1 — an upright cleaner and a handvac.  No dust bags.  No cords.  No cords!  It comes with a rechargeable battery, so no more tripping over the cord, running over it and nicking the wire, or having to plug and unplug from one room to the next.  No.  It will not make housework fun.   Easier is nice, but it doesn’t equate to fun.

One tiny crocus has managed to push its way into the world to offer a moment of happiness.

Crocus; Photo:KFawcett

Things are not always as they seem/appear — the walls are not gray; they’re blue.  The Mexican lantern is not blue; its glass is clear.  The sun through the window has given me something to ponder…

Kierkegaard wrote:  “To become again a child, to become as nothing, without any selfishness, to become again a youth, notwithstanding one has become shrewd, shrewd by experience, shrewd in worldly wisdom, and then to despise the thought of behaving shrewdly, to will to be a youth, to will to retain youth’s enthusiasm with its spontaneity unabated, to will to reacquire it by valiant effort…yes, that is the task.”

It is a small thing that often takes great effort — to see the world, again, through the eyes of a child.  Sometimes the elephant and the mouse are both small.

At the feeder: my boys (goldfinch) are now getting lots of yellow feathers; grackles are just blackbirds until the sun hits them and their iridescent blue/green heads sparkle; the wet ground beneath the feeder makes for good worm-hunting for the robins.  Through this dirty kitchen window…they congregate at the watering hole for happy hour.


After hearing the sad news from Britain today, I googled a number of countries around the world looking for good news.  No big headlines.  I guess folks in the news business don’t profit much from reporting the good stuff.  If you’ve read an uplifting story worth repeating, send a link.  On paper the world looks small and colorful and…connected — as if the puzzle is complete, no pieces missing, no challenges to face.

At the coffee shop:  Latte.  Whole milk.  Lots of foam.  At the next table, two old people talking: “When did it become silly to hold hands?” she asks, giving him a look he’s likely seen before.  He shrugs, sips his coffee, stares out the window.  They are quiet.  She breaks off pieces of a chocolate chip scone — a bit for him, a bit for her.  When they get up to leave, he takes her hand. 






Posted by: ktzefr | March 17, 2017

Foto Friday: Angles — Looking Up

“A vivir que son dos dias”  (old Spanish saying — “Life lasts just a couple of days” or “Life is short” i.e. Enjoy!)

Playa del Carmen; Photo:KFawcett


“Two reeds drink from one stream, one is hollow, the other is sugar-cane.”  ~ Rumi

Medio Mundo, Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


“I love this world, but not for its answers.” ~ Mary Oliver, “Snowy Night”

New York City; Photo:KFawcett


Have a good weekend!


Posted by: ktzefr | March 13, 2017

Treasures, Memories, Migrations, and Beans

The forsythia and daffodils are blooming and the trees are full of buds.  Soon the wind will carry the sweet scents of the flowering trees and the tulips will bloom.  Well, my tulips won’t bloom.  The squirrels have eaten the bulbs and left a dirty mess on the porch.  That’s NOT a pretty picture, so here’s one of tulips from another place/time…


Tulips; Photo:KFawcett

Tulips.  Holland.  Windmills and Dikes.  The stories I heard as a child — the boy who stuck his finger in a hole in the dike and saved Holland, the Dutch girl rhymes we jumped rope to in the school yard at recess.  Years later, I remember standing on a boat in the rain in Amsterdam.  And eating cheese.  Wonderful cheese.  Growing up in Kentucky I had never tasted such as assortment of cheeses.  Years later, in Mérida, Yucatan, I’m eating chiles rellenos and a dozen other dishes smothered in hot, melted cheese.  Delicioso!  And I have to ask — what kind?  The reply: “Edam.”

Edam?  Dutch cheese in Mexico?  Turns out it’s a basic ingredient in many traditional dishes of Yucatan — from chiles rellenos to sweet papaya with shredded cheese to marquesitas (those wonderful rolled wafers filled with cheese and covered in caramel that are sold by street vendors in the Plaza Mayor) — all made from a special Edam-like cheese ball imported from Holland (Queso de Bola), but not available in the rest of Mexico or the United States.

In the 19th century Holland was a trading partner with Yucatan.  This, when all the world needed the sisal rope made in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Mérida became one of the richest cities in the world.  Boats came across the Atlantic to the Port of Progreso bearing goods to swap for sisal, and the locals loved the Dutch cheese.  They still do.  Me, too.  It’s one of those memories that sticks to the taste buds.


When I was growing up in Kentucky the grownups often talked about the day the uncles, aunts, and cousins left for Detroit.  It was sometime in the 50s, after the war.  Cars packed, pulling all the belongings in trailers behind them, they left the hills with the kids leaning out the windows, waving good-bye.

Birds migrate thousands of miles.  Butterflies migrate.  Elephants migrate.  Appalachians migrate, too.

It’s all about having a better life.  Not so elusive to birds and butterflies and elephants — the better life is “here” for awhile and then it’s “there.”  Not always so, if you ask the Appalachian people.  There are trade-offs.  The things you gain, the ones you lose, and the struggle to replace what you left behind.

I suppose this happens in immigrant communities, too.  That need to reach back and retain something good from the other life.  It’s hard to give up language and customs and traditions.  It’s giving up identity, really.

“You can’t have everything.”  I heard this a lot growing up.  I didn’t take it seriously.  Having it all was a matter of finding the right place, right job, right lifestyle.  Young people are stubborn, innocent, believers.  Until they’re not.  Love, values, beliefs, friends, meaning…there is no place to purchase a box or a book or a bag filled with all those treasures that money cannot buy.  There is luck involved.  And hard work.  And keeping one’s mind on track.  There is joy in re-invention, so long as one is able to recognize treasure…


Sifting through my notes…there is a reference to Mare Nostrum, a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea.

Rapallo, Italy, 1972.  Outside my window stands the Castle on the Sea with the blue-green wash of the Mediterranean tickling its stone feet; the tide comes and goes, as tides are wont to do.  And sometimes people, too.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  But this image stays: the fireworks start, like flowers of light filling the black sky, and I watch the lit debris falling, falling into the sea.  I’m standing on a balcony drinking cognac with new friends I will never see again.  We’re celebrating some event that I can no longer recall…

“There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have have changed.  Some forever, not for better.  Some have gone and some remain.  All those places have their moments with lovers and friends I still can recall.  Some are dead and some are living…In my life, I’ve loved them all…”  (The Beatles released this song on my birthday in 1965.)


The late afternoon sun is pouring into the living room.  Round, lighted dots dance on the walls and ceiling.  I search for their origin and find it on the hearth.  The green cut glass candle holder, sitting in a slant of sunlight, is catching the rays just right to reflect around the room in a dozen or more points of light, and I think about what happens when two disparate things, like the sun and the candle holder, come together and produce something new, something that does not resemble either one.  On cloudy days the points of light don’t exist at all.  They are not merely hidden, waiting to be found.  They simply do not exist without this kind of moment, these conditions.  As the sun drops further west, the light shifts and the dots fade.  Temporary: a bright, shiny…moment.


When the uncles and aunts and cousins all went to Detroit to work in the car factories in the 50s, my dad and mom stayed home.  They ran a store, tended a garden, bought a cow.  They told us to go to school, do our work, and “Don’t bring home Cs.”  I’m enormously grateful for that.

My dad said the Bible promises the “first will be last and the last first” and I wasn’t quite sure how this happened, but I was always looking forward to moving up the line.  “A step at a time,” he said.  Don’t worry about the odds.  Odds are made to be defied.  Odds don’t amount to a “hill of beans.”

Now, for those who don’t speak Appalachian, a “hill of beans” means one bean plant, not a mountain of beans.  A “mess of beans,” on the other hand, means enough freshly-picked beans for supper.  And someone who is said to be “full of beans” may or may not have eaten.  Supper is beside the point.  Suffice it to say that beans, in this case, have nothing to do with food.


And so it’s Monday.  Odds are it’s going to snow!



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