Red poem for #TankaTuesday

This challenge was to use a color and a word associated with it. I chose “red” and “bravery”.

Red is in my name
Mark, born in March, the month of 
Mars. But I despise war
Though it takes bravery to 
Fight, the bravest fight for peace. 

I wish you all a peaceful week. Join the fun here.


I received this email and it definitely made my day.

To have the word “masterpiece” associated with my book is hard to take in. Of course, it fills me with pride. “Simplicity and wisdom” is exactly what I was going for, so to have a reader recognize that and take time out to comment on it is amazing.

This won’t go to my head, though. I am humbled by the presence of two luminous philosophies in my book. That I was bright enough to find the connection between the two of them says something about me, for sure, but Thoreau and Taoism deserve almost all the credit if this is indeed a masterpiece.

Have you checked out my book? This link will lead you to the Amazon order page where you can read more about it and perhaps make a purchase: Tao of Thoreau

Soft Wild

The other day on my hike I started taking pictures of wildflowers. Most of them had tiny blooms. I love how beauty can range from miniscule to cosmic. 

But I really started thinking about the word “wild”. Wild and wildlife conjure images of tigers, hyenas, coyotes and bears. Roaming, hungry, savage and untamed.  

Wildflowers? They don’t reflect any of those adjectives. This side of the wild is delicate, beautiful, intricate and small. 

Yet they are wild. They grow in meadows and along woodland paths.  Yet they also grow on highway verges, rocky cliffsides, even cracks in the sidewalk. 

The soft side of wild is defined by beauty, peace and persistence. The same strength and resilience that an animal needs to survive in the wild is represented by these fragile, lovely flowers.  

Spirit Animal for #tankstuesday

The challenge this week is to find your spirit animal and write a poem about it. The quiz is fun, and can be found here.

I got a butterfly! I was just thinking about how they fly in unusual patterns, so I came up with this poem:

Like the butterfly
I move in a spiral flight
Repetitious growth

Find the challenge here.

Simplicity, patience, compassion

One of my favorite passages from Tao te Ching is: 

I have just three things to teach: 
simplicity, patience, compassion. 
These three are your greatest treasures. 
Simple in actions and in thoughts, 
you return to the source of being. 
Patient with both friends and enemies, 
you accord with the way things are. 
Compassionate toward yourself, 
you reconcile all beings in the world

(Translation by Stephen Mitchell, 1995) 

This passage is such an incredible guide, as is the whole of that remarkable, ancient book. These words constantly return me to the lessons they teach, which are both straightforward and difficult to practice continuously.  

Simplicity is something I do attempt to practice, and it has helped me control my desires and work on my dreams without being let down when they don’t work out exactly the way I want them to. 

Patience is probably my strongest attribute: after all, I am a 7th grade teacher! I have learned to be more patient with my dreams, understanding that I must continue to put in the work as they grow and come true.  

I have worked on being compassionate with myself. I used to have a lot of negative self-talk. This came from a period when I was unreliable and irresponsible. It has been a long time since I was like that, but the negative thoughts were powerful, because they were once necessary. Since I have changed, I have worked on replacing them with positive words, and it has helped me to stay on track and learn lessons without beating myself up.  

Simplicity, patience, compassion: three powerful words that taken together form a path for a healthy life.

Fantasy poem for #TankaTuesday

Fairy flight through forest tendrils 

Aragorn hears the frantic flutter

Nightmares of elves chased by orcs sent by

Trickster gods laughing at heroes  

Avalon opens it gates and sends its

Swords to protect the small and innocent

"Yield" the warriors shout to their foes

The challenger this week was to write an acrostic syllabic poem. I went with the word “Fantasy.”

Here’s the link if you’re curious.

Anna! For #sundaystills

The photo challenge this week is pets and playgrounds. So here is a picture of my little love Anna.

She is chilling on the back deck living her best dog life! Anna is a nearly perfect dog in my opinion. She his not too big, has a very sweet nature, loves to hike, but is totally chill when we are relaxing. She has done maybe two “bad” things in her 13 years. We love her so much, and of course she returns the favor.

Check out the photo challenge here and post your pet!

Playing Crows

A few years ago, I was sitting in my backyard. It was summertime, and I noticed the four neighborhood crows wheeling around in the sky. Then the largest one cawed, and they all flew into a single tree.  

Crows aren’t usually that interesting, so I was about to turn away when one launched from a high branch. It flew straight toward a powerline pole. It dove, then banked an extreme turn around the pole. Churning its wings, it flew back up to the branch, greeted by a cacophony from its fellows. 

Then, one by one, each did the same. They continued this for a while, and I was enraptured. Their cawing, usually grating, became the sounds of encouragement and enthusiasm.  

They must be playing, I thought at first. And I think they were. But I also think that they were doing drills, practicing difficult maneuvers that would be useful in tight forest spaces.  

I gained a great respect for crows that day, and the experience stripped away the biases often associated with these sophisticated carrion birds.  

Opposites for #tankatuesday

This Tuesday’s challenge is to find synonyms for “work” and “play”, and then write about these two potential opposites.

Can be playful
Though sometimes it's painful.
A serious gamer
Forgets the fun
For wins

Mine is a “Badger’s Hexastitch” which makes me think of a very smart badger writing poems and crocheting. It does not rhyme, and the syllables are 2-4-6-6-4-2.

Join the fun here. You have all week to make your poem.

Happy, not sad, Mother’s Day

I didn’t submit a pitch for a Mother’s Day storytelling show because too many memories of my mom are from near the end of her life, and I thought that they were all sad. I didn’t want to tell a sad story. 

But when we went to the show yesterday, one of the stories really touched me. The teller related how he had read to his mother in the last months of her life, and how they were able to connect through the stories.  

It brought me back to when my mother was recovering from strokes. Her ability to come back was astounding; her will to get out of assisted living and back home profoundly impacted my family and I. It still inspires me. 

When she got back home, she needed help with her reading and writing. I would visit after school, and for a while Mom was my student. We worked on reading brief passages, and I would have her answer questions about them. Learning to write again was arduous for her, but she was committed and showed great improvement.  

For fun, we would play cards. We had played Rummy here and there throughout the years, so that’s the game we chose. We had to play with the cards face up; Mom couldn’t consistently remember how to group the cards to score points. Over time she got better at this. Finally, one day she beat me without my help! I was so proud of her, and it was even fun to lose! 

I guess what I learned is that even within the often difficult and painful times of those years, there were also meaningful and happy moments of connection between mother and son.  I hope that those types of memories will continue to emerge as the years go on.