Writes With Pencils

fiction, memoir, essays and poetry

Canning Comfort

I just went through this time of year again. This year 247 lbs. of Bing cherries + 3 cases of red wine yielded 129 quarts of love in a jar that filled the entire cupboard.  I’ll share throughout the coming year with my restaurant guests and friends. The grief hasn’t grown any smaller four years later, but my life has grown larger around it. (If you’re curious about “what grief?”, take a look at my very first post. Thank you for reading.)

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Writes With Pencils

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I stock the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
full of plump bing cherries
from this year’s record crop,
each one hand-plucked and pitted
and steeped in sweet red wine.

Five pounds at a time, I first wash,
then pluck, pluck, pluck
the stems from their belly buttons
fully ripe, their cords had let go of their mother’s arms
into the farmer’s hands,
then from the pile I
pick, squeeze, pit—
each stone hits the bowl
with a joyous ping.

I stock the old pine cupboard with rows of mason jars
forty-one quarts so far,
the result of ninety pounds of pitted fruit
and a generous case of wine.

Next to them rests a single jar
of old fashioned strawberry jam
the only one left from last year’s harvest,
back when cooking and canning
was simply done
to capture and preserve
summer’s sweetness at its peak,
before it…

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Signs Along The Way

 

Along a pebbled shore
of sand and shells,
littered by storms of life’s injustice,
sprang a single, wild, fruited vine
that defied the lack of soil
spread its thorny shoots and leaves
sprouted clusters of tight berries,
(there’d been so little rain that season)
but black, and fully ripe
weighted with concentrated sweetness
and packed with seeds
of possibility.

Then after dormant winter
among some ancient boulders
beneath a ponderosa pine
and spreading broadleaf maple,
a golden pride of dandelions
welcomed hungry bumble bees
with their first taste of spring
and watched a sparrow
gather blades of grass
to weave a nest
in which it laid
five tiny, perfect, speckled eggs
discovered in the vines.

And as the hellebores bloomed
demurely in the shade of cedars,
we planted, you and I,
four budding twigs, the shape of baby trees
to form a living picket fence
around our loving home
and from those buds, burst blossoms
each visited by bees
that swelled throughout the summer
until we noticed on our wedding day
five perfectly imperfect apples,
our new family.

Perspective After Suicide

Today I am reminded to remember the peaceful, content moments of gratitude and presence. They are inconstant, but recur. The cycles and circles of seasons and life. This poem was written and originally posted here on July 5, 2015.

Writes With Pencils

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I awake with relief
to a cool morning, take pleasure in
watering the garden and pulling weeds
from the rockery
before the early sun has risen
to its full strength
and feel grateful that the cat
will once again eat from my hand
after a day of worrying listlessness,
she too having found relief
in the cooler night,
recovered from unseasonable weather.

I feel the fullness of my life
and tell myself,
as if counseling another
to remember this
remember this, girl,
remember this moment the next time
you seek simple respite from the heat
only to feel like sinking into the lake
and being done with it all.

Remember this
when you can’t feel the joyous breath
of the water
from the swell of wakes
of passing boats.

Remember this
when the morning is clear
but the solidity of the mountains
offers you no comfort
as they stand watch.

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As I Care For My Mother With Dementia

Written between
loads of laundry
and driving to work
the words leave my mind
before my hand
finds a pen
to record the lines
of grief
stirred by solstice rays, fear
of lost memories, and

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