Archive for June, 2013

Space Haiku

Silk Road Photo

Central Asian Caravan Woman Rousing her Camel While Nursing

China, Tang Dynasty 618-906 C.E.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City, Missouri

Today at the local food coop, I watched a young woman nurse her baby while she texted away on her phone.  I enjoyed the irony of moms then and moms now:  always more than one thing to be done at the same time.

I wrote these haiku after reading an article about the earth’s risk of being hit by an asteroid.  I was also working to get the yard and garden in shape for summer.  The juxtaposition of what is going on in space and what I am doing here on earth appealed to me.

Asteroids whizz by

millions of miles away.

Brown toad in garden.


Meteor of stone

veined with iron-red lacework.

Crochet a sampler.


Pictures of an asteroid

arrive from Deep Space.

Petals fall like snow.


The asteroid belt

lies just short of Jupiter.

Horses graze on grass.


A moon in orbit

follows asteroid to earth.

Light bulb drops, splinters.


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The Longest Day


“Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?  I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”                                   Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

I have an ornament with a sun face on one side and a moon face on the other.  I hang it on a mirror I look into almost every day.  On June 21 I turn it to the moon side; on December 21 I turn it to the sun.  It’s a reminder, always, of the changes to come.

It is cool and rainy today, foreshadowing fall.  Ridiculous, of course, because the forecast is for the mid-90’s for the next two days.  Still…

A prompt a member of  my poetry group suggested is to write about the weather.  You know, since everyone talks about it, you might as well write a poem about it.


A long, cold spring and after awhile

I assess my losses:  arbor vitae

replaced, victim of December snow

that froze in place until April.

Crabgrass lawn, outcome of draught

that killed the grass but not the weeds.

And then, amidst the dying grape hyacinth,

I found my Butterfly Weed.

After the eleventh snowiest winter

on record and a wetter than normal spring,

plants I’d wept over last summer sprang up

like Lazarus.  Well into June, the orange rose

I was sure was gone leafed out.  Lucky for me

I’d been too busy to dig it up.

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Powell Garden, Kansas

Powell Gardens, Kansas

I just returned from a long weekend in Kansas City reunion-ing with six high school girlfriends.  A big topic of conversation was whether our high school education was good.  We grew up in North Dakota.  Only a group of NDak-ers would even ask such a question.  Can you say, “Insecure?”

In the Fall 2012 issue of Prairie Schooner (a University of Nebraska publication) Brian James Schill wrote an article titled, “The Superego State:  A Lover’s Reply.”  Schill teaches at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.  His essay discusses the two halves of North Dakotans, the helpful, even Socialist ones who promote things like the State Bank of ND and the “Can’t we all behave?” North Dakotans who put up billboards that say things like, “Be Kind” or “Be Polite.”  When I am overly the latter, my husband just rolls his eyes and calls me “Dakota.”

The most interesting reference in the essay is to Peter Rentfrow a Cambridge University psychologist who studies the effect of geography on people’s personalities.  Rentfrow found that psychological traits do emerge in geographical regions and that such traits are correlated with behaviors such as crime, religiosity, health, etc.  According to Schill, North Dakota led the nation in two of the five measures, sociability and affability.  North Dakotans ranked first in extraversion and agreeableness and very low in neuroticism.  Schill says that North Dakotans are exceedingly nice and “we impress such behavior on our children and colleagues.”  

Oh. for a dime for every time someone, usually male, said to me:  “Smile, Mary.”  It is not possible to live as a happy introvert in North Dakota.  People simply will not leave you alone.

Rentfrow also found that North Dakota ranks fifty-first in “openness” and near the bottom in “creativity.”  Schill says, “Even if we are sociable…it is only reservedly so, among ourselves.  We bristle at fresh faces, dismiss novelty and kitsch, loathe to be seen as needing others, and tend to ‘make do’ with our bleak surroundings, considering complaining and blasphemy synonymous.  We’ll talk to you for hours but not say a thing.  Add to this lack of openness and creativity often paralyzing feelings of inferiority…”

So, back to education.  Let’s ask first what the purpose of education is.  To my mind, it is to enable the students to think for themselves; the girlfriends mentioned “critical thinking” as one thing they got out of their education.  But how can one learn to be a critical thinker, which requires openness and consideration of alternatives when one is educated in a state that does not value openness or creativity?

Not everyone in ND is an overbearing extrovert.  I only recall one particular teacher who gave me a lower grade in a science class than I deserved so I would “try harder” the next semester.  Funny thing was, I didn’t.

The girlfriends would surely say that we are all good critical thinkers in our adult lives and perhaps even one or two of us have a creative flair, though nothing too wild, of course.  So we were not badly educated.  But I don’t think I could say we got a good education given the limitations of the environment.

I had a friend who stayed on for years and tried to change things by confronting the hypocrisy and willful lack of awareness of the population.  I left.  It was simply too much work.

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