Still Life

Our widowed friend paints life still:

each object vibrates color;

vessels brim with promise past,

with memories vaguely shaken.

Repeating acts for themselves,

sublime grasp of the moment,

each stroke observes one forward step,

one backward glance forsaken.

Still life is breath, no less,

when human hands and eyes behold

what minds and hearts embrace,

what sharing lives awaken.

From Plains to Polestar

For Roberta Jane on her Ninetieth Birthday
(July 5, 2014)

When she was young, a way out West,
her family owned the dairy best;
her aunties smoked and drank and cussed,
then laughed out loud and lightly fussed.

On Okie sod she staked her claim,
then danced into a pilot’s brain.
Gettin’ hitched and movin’ East,
she planted firm where change is least.

Popping babies one and two,
a couple more, tired through and through,
Bobbie Jane, she kept ’em thrivin’,
too many schools for daily drivin’.

‘Twas Bobbie this and Bobbie that,
fetch the hoe and get my hat,
please bake those tasty heads of cat,
feed the dogs and trim the fat.

She took to travelin’ east to west,
but always thought the beach was blessed.
She spoiled the babes and kissed their toes;
she sneaked them sweets and wiped their nose.

Then finally when she hit the chair,
an open book, a stance so fair,
her Bob and clan close arm in arm,
she gazed beyond her rich green farm.

Though far from home of younger years,
she found a hope to calm her fears,
she waited on a life held dear,
she whispered joy that’s ever near.

Thankful for a Generation

Given an unusual assignment for a family gathering on Thanksgiving Day, I flailed the waters but finally found my current. My list of thanks, as spokesperson for my generation, need not be contained by a single occasion. The items on my list flow freely from a full fount of thanks. We are grateful for much at the close of November 2012. In truth, our river of thanks stretches, like a flooded Mississippi, over the banks of six long decades. It is surely a more colorful and voluminous tributary than my bucket of gratitude suggests.

Read it here.

Happy Birthday, TennesseeSoul!

Four years ago this week I officially launched TennesseeSoul. I started building the website a year or so earlier, but the national election in 2008 and an abrupt economic stumble prompted me to take a leap forward.

It has been a wonderful walk for me. To the disappointment of some, I have no intention of quitting.

I don’t mean to be rude, but if only one or two close friends and family members read each of my stories, that is satisfaction enough. I certainly remember and know more than I did four years ago because of this venture. There is every reason to suspect that a few readers each month have come to the same conclusion.

Despite my best efforts to convince some friends with superior writing skills to contribute an essay, remembrance, or story, its been mostly me and some of my closest and most inspirational family members who have stepped up to play along. Hooray for the octogenarians! Without their courage and experience, we would have been denied first-hand accounts of World War II in the Pacific, Memphis life in the 1940s, Tennessee state politics in the 1950s, and hurricane Katrina.

When we get older, we are ready to start talking in ways that we have not talked before. We want our descendants to know what we are as a community — what we learned.

I think at four years old, TennesseeSoul has done that: it has given a multilayer, detailed glimpse of a community. I don’t have an ounce of shame or regret about a single subject, word, or sentiment.

Because TennesseeSoul lives, I live. It is a place of calm and reflection for me. Just an average of forty, dedicated minutes a day – along with a solid public education, a sufficient library, the liberty to ponder, and a rough journal of explorations long past – has given me this. For most average folks, fortunes are not made in giant strides but in the tiniest of disciplined steps. For you youngsters who doubt your hidden powers, this is the most important secret that I can share: it is the determined, consistent, worthy small efforts that can yield the purest rewards. Constant enjoyment is but the icing on the cake that keeps the soul salivating. Happy birthday to playing the wild with restraint absent paralyzing fear.