Invisible Fences

Bailey’s invisible fence ran along quite close to the cement steps pictured here. She used to veer off to the left of the steps to avoid getting “buzzed.” When the railing got installed we moved her invisible fence line way over to the right to give her more room – but at first she didn’t believe. We had to coax her and sweet talk her over and over, up and down the steps until finally she was a “convert.”  Still, it took guts for her to believe.

The invisible parts of our lives; believing in them, or not.  Trust. Fear. Taking those first steps. Avoiding pain. Pain that seems to come from nowhere – an “invisible” fence!  How very much this mirrors our emotional experiences of our lives. And yet, still, every day, Life asks us to keep walking up and down steps.  To believe we won’t be hurt.

Chair, Window

Porch scene found in Long Valley, NJ. Entire house beautiful in its decay. I imagine fleeing a house like this, leaving a favorite chair sitting on the porch, and I see confusion and hurrying, maybe a fire, the law, a murder, a birth.

Regarding the My Year of Mindfulness theme.
I’m in transition about how I’m thinking it through. In a way, mindfulness is what my blog has always been about, you know? And yet a few weeks ago I set about consciously being mindful and practicing mindfulness. Well, regardless of what this blog has always (or has not always) been about, I began to feel preachy in my MYOMs, so I’m going to stop labeling which posts are all about MYOM and which are not. It is all the same.  Seeking harmony.

– photo by mary macgowan

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

MYOM #8: Gold Cracks

My Year of Mindfulness #8

This cracked bowl still knows how to be a bowl. It can’t be anything else. Look how beautiful it is. I’d like to hold it in my lap every day; I’d like to feel its heft and listen to its story. We could be mindful of each other, my bowl and me. We could sit together and just be there, in the shade of a cherry tree, bowl and woman. I’d like that.

MYOM #7: Blue Heron Dock Standing

My Year of Mindfulness #7

Today this blue heron was me. Quirky poses and full of herself and firmly positioned on the end of my dock like me and my tea most mornings. Is it okay that I’m full of myself too?  I am, I confess. Full! of! Myself!

Tonight I stood in her place. It was late, after midnight. The moon was full of itself, so bright it was almost annoying to this woman who had walked out to stand on her peaceful dock.  As I stood there, adjusting to the streetlight moon, I wondered what it’s like to be a blue heron on the end of my dock.  I can never really know.  

I wish I had such awesome funky wings.  Thank you Blue Heron for this wondrous pose!  I suspect she’s welcoming in breezes, sunshine and, well, whatever slips in unawares. Love, maybe. Love, I hope.  

Year of Mindfulness #6: Rock Writing


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock writing discovered on Old Mission Lighthouse Point.

When I first saw these names and signs (there were dozens of them), I couldn’t discern what some of them were. Most of them looked like hieroglyphics or some ancient language. It wasn’t until I looked through my camera lens that I could recognize most of the words and names. Through the camera lens I also discovered that I’d been looking at some of the words upside down.  At first I felt confused and foolish.  Then I was captivated by the effect of the camera.  And then I started thinking. . .

How we long to be seen. How we yearn for permanence and recognition.
I felt this.
I am here today at this place.

And sometimes with only a subtle shift in point of view – like me looking through my camera’s lens – we can then see what’s really there.

Each day now I take time to see if I can see.  

Year of Mindfulness #3: Blueberries and Mint

(It’s a 23 second song)

Blueberries and mint
Blueberries and mint
Mint and blueberries
Blueberries and mint

This is it, folks. Blueberries. Mint. They’re growing on my beach. I could fight against them, pull them out and clear them away. Or I can celebrate their solid being-ness.

I wrote this song to remind myself to keep to the basics. No sense in trying to be something I’m not. All I can do is be me. Blueberries can only be blueberries. Mint can only be mint. You can only be you. I can only be me. So natural it almost seems silly to write it out! But we humans are pretty good at NOT being ourselves.  Or is it only me?

– song and photo by mary macgowan
– blueberries and mint from mary’s property

Year of Mindfulness Day #2: A New Water Lily

A new water lily

curls upward like birthday ribbon
‘til the tight white bud reaches the surface.
Then it leans over on the lake
and rocks itself awake.

The tight curl believing in what-is. I am so often like that corkscrew curl….but I forget to believe. I forget to believe that I have the right to grow; that my “curl” will smooth out over time; that I am allowed to do what nature wants me to do: Enjoy and thrive.  Isn’t that ridiculous? How could I deny myself the privilege of enjoying and thriving? What was I thinking? Or was I thinking too much?

– photo and poem by mary macgowan

Year of Mindfulness Day #1: The Sweet Release of Giving In

This day begins

My Year of Mindfulness…

Fought the lake weeds for the past 5 years…

…until I realized, heck, let the dang things grow.

Give in!

Maybe I’ll end up with water lilies, like my neighbor:

and Monet will come for tea.

If not, at least the battle is over.

It began with lakeweeds. I’d been engaged in battle with them for the past 5 years, since I’d moved to this sparkling lake haven. Pulled the weeds by hand, used a lakeweed “mower,” used a lakeweed cutter, poured chemicals into the water to kill them. This is the day when I sat on my dock in the morning, as usual, when it came to me. I could simply accept them. I could even welcome them. And thus began my year of mindfulness. My year of accepting what-is. My year of seeing what-is. My year of being okay with the changeable always-growing creature that I am. The glory of my me-ness.

Michigan’s Back Alleys

This scarcely feels fair, she says, so easy to find the loved
the abandoned, the swingsets, the trash cans.
It’s fair, he answers, everyone’s back yard.

They drive back and forth
behind all the bright front porches.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– photo & poem by mary macgowan

Squeaks When Disturbed

The Walnut Sphinx Moth On Very Old Wall

Insectidentification.org  sizes this moth by portraying it as a large orange square placed on the same page as a quarter (25 cents). The orange square would, by my guesstimate, hold a couple dollars’ worth. Ross says it was about 4 inches wide not including the wingspan. He thought at first that it was a bat. Ross also says that the moth is not on a wall but a windowsill.

A quirk of the Walnut Sphinx Moth caterpillar: It may make “squeaking” sounds when disturbed.

This moth is very much alive; the wall (or windowsill or whatever it is) is surely wasting away which qualifies it for The Beauty in the Decay Series, attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things; how nature will have its way. The captivating presence of the process.

– beautiful photo by Cathy Sevensma

The Movement of Planets

Dad tried to explain,
giving me a grapefruit,
Mom an apple and he was
the flashlight sun. I
was never going to get it.

Sun bright
on my revolving moon.
Black-eyed crows
and Susans still banging

from a blue sky.
Grape jelly
in a hollow half orange,
bird watchers below.
An apple planet
bobs above.

– poem and photo (at Chicago’s O’Hare) by mary macgowan

The Boat Was In An Old, Old Room

“Someone should fix this up,” she said.
They walked through poison ivy (maybe) and tall grasses to see up close.
“Look in this window,” he said.
She looked. There was a boat.

The boat was in an old, old room.

The old, old room was in a house.

“If this were France, there’d be people living in it,” she said.
“Yeah, all peeling paint and that French elegance thing.”

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– poem and photos by mary macgowan

Broken House

Broken House

She considers quilting.
Ripped cloth  / / /
splayed

zippers exposed, a blank     /   /   blanket
one slice of  /  /  /  orange
in a  /  /  /  / mold.
/ Almost wrong.

It must have something  /  /  /  song.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan

We Don’t Have Enough Pleasant Hours Clubs

#40

Grandma attended a one-room school house. They sat on benches. No slouching allowed. She didn’t mind when we gently teased her: Grandma! Slouch for us! She couldn’t do it. She’d slump a wee slump, then she’d giggle.  When I was 5, she wore an angel costume for Halloween.  She floated out the door on her way to Pleasant Hours Club, wings unfurled.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– photo and memoir by mary macgowan

What Was the Plan?

#39

What was the plan? she asks. The dream?

You’re sad, he says.

I just wish they could see
how beautiful it looks, now, from afar.
Years, decades, from across the field.

– photo and poem by mary macgowan

Friends, I changed my blog address: pluckyumbrella.com, but I think you can still get here the usual way: 57andthensome.wordpress.com.  Still.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

Mama Bird

#37

A bird house used to be here.
According to this mama, it still is.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– photo posted by a friend on FB, not sure who’s the photographer. If it is you, please let me know. And thanks.

Treehouses

#36


Wow (by Hafiz)  

Where does the real poetry

Come from?

From the amorous sighs
In this moist dark when making love
With form or
Spirit.

Where does poetry live?

In the eye that says, “Wow wee!”
In the overpowering felt splendor
Every sane mind knows
When it realizes – our life dance
Is only for a few magic
Seconds,

From the heart saying,
Shouting,

“I am so damn
alive.  

Let’s build a tree house!”

– photos by mary macgowan, poem by hafiz – last line added by mary macgowan

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

Ridiculous, the Charioteer

Ridiculous, the Charioteer.
She can’t see the man, his chariot.
Hercules looks more Crooked-Deer-Jumping than Hero.

Great Bear and Little Bear? Dippers, easy.
Some study the stars
as if they have meaning,

as if they matter. Terrifying word,
Joy. A still
and silent rock.

She dives into dark water
the bright soles of her feet
last to go.

– poem and photograph by mary macgowan

By An Open Window

#35 or so

Flower me in stories, count me in sheep
I sleep curled up in a morning glory.
Warm french bread, sleepyhead,
jellied and buttered by an open window.


The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

poem and photo by mary macgowan

Night Flowers

A Land With No S

Some people write in complete planets.
Characters. S-free.
If she lived there
would she still lisp?

S is a whisper sliced open
insistent from the throat.

Tongue, teeth, lips:
all untouched,
an empty river rushing.

Teachers give it
for Satisfactory.

As if
it doesn’t break our hearts
every time we say S
and know it can’t be.

Tongue. Teeth. Lips.
All untouched,
empty rivers rushing.

More Disappearing Stairs

She sighed, This whole stair thing . . .
I know, he said.
Eaten up, she said. Look at them. Vanishing.
It’s beautiful, one of them said or maybe both.

So beautiful it hurts.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

Disappearing Stairs

Beautiful Decay #33

She said, It scares me, these stairs fading, being eaten by the world.
He said, Yes.
I don’t think I can write about it, she said.
You don’t have to, he answered.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

Still Life in an Open Field

Beauty in the Decay Series #32

Still Life

Movies on our broken television
with closed captioning
stuck “on.”
Later, when it got fixed,
how I missed

sounds of birds flapping
gurgling water
heels tapping on a hard wood floor

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan

A Path Makes Sense to its Maker

On the lake this morning with good dog Bailey.

We saw a yellow butterfly, a turtle, a muskrat, dozens of fish large and small, and a frog (or maybe it was a toad).

a turtle poem. . .

Bubbles on the water’s surface
follow a path that makes sense
to their maker.
At the end, a turtle’s head
appears out of early lake water,
trees bent and reflected around it.

Two days ago a dozen or more
turtle tails & fat feet tracked in the sand;
clumsy mounds. We chose two
to protect. Eggs, we hope.

The turtle’s head disappears –
a magician’s trick –
the bubbles slowly go back
to their own kind:
the clear air that belongs
only to new mornings.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan

Robin’s Egg Blue

Found under the bird’s nest shown here June 6th (and below):

Is there any blue as tender as a real robin’s egg blue?

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– photos by cathy sevensma

THE PICNIC TABLE

Ode to the Picnic Table

by Craig Dotti

Lumber and lacquer 
Nails and elbow grease
Blood from the splinters 
Before you were stripped down
From the wood 
Of the forest behind our home

Standing sturdy and steadfast,
On the patio 
I laid 
Brick by brick
Gate keeper of the orchard that grows, 
Thick in the summer  
And curls up barren,

In the cold months
As if sitting on its mahogany shoulders there are
Mountains to the North West that seem
To smile with their peaks, 
And valleys against the blue satin 
Sheet of a sky

You who bare witness to my body and the bodies of
Countless others 
Those that would just simply use you and fewer,
That would become your very grain
You are watching our conversations, 
Through knots for eyes 
Through bird-burrowed holes, 
Hearing us,
As we break bread as brothers
Wood through the trees
Flesh from bone
Feast to famine 
You are,

Beautiful and complete
As the steak,
Cooked rare 
A glass of summer port–wine: 

The color of the red russet potato,
And the earth-soiled hands that dug them up

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

photo by mary macgowan

FOR EVERY BIRD A NEST

For Every Bird a Nest – Dickinson

For every bird a nest
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round

Wherefore when boughs are free
Households in every tree
Pilgrim be found?

Perhaps a home too high
Ah Aristocracy!
The little Wren desires

Perhaps of twig so fine
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires

The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house

Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?

poem by emily dickinson; photo by cathy sevensma

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

Grinkor

Beauty in the Decay Series #23

Grinkor took you away last night/you, a prehistoric bird
made of sharp angles and a long pointy beak/you said
no matter how many days you spent there/the date
of your return would always be today/but it was always
tomorrow when I would hide from you, squeezing behind
radiators sometimes even trees/I had something I
needed desperately to protect/so I pressed up against
walls, birds pushing on all sides and that’s how I
came to fly/I had to use my mind, though, to remain aloft
/like you taught me/I said they converted you/but you
wouldn’t come home/I tried to tell my father/but he thought
I was the crazy one/another planet? ha-ha, he’s left you for good,
sweetie/then you found me, so happy you hugged me/
accidentally/stabbed me with your long beak/you panicked,
scratched my legs with your claws/Come home, I cried/I’ll be
dead before you come back/all I had left were wings/
I whirled to the sky/you ran in circles like a chicken/you
were neatly shaving your head and beard/and that’s when
I didn’t know you any more/still, this time I stopped halfway,
my heart beating faster than my thoughts/I sang an aria
somewhere between god and grinkor/and it broke my wings
baby it broke my heart.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan, poem published in 1979 in some tiny literary journal; I never got a copy of it and I now forget its name. Sad. It was my first published poem.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

WASHING GREASING BATTERIES TIRES

Beauty in the Decay Series #20

Green and white tiles give way slowly.

HAIKUS…

WASHING GREASING GREEN-
WHITE TILES, BATTERIES AND TIRES.
THE WHEELS ON THE. ROUND.

Deer in headlights freeze
or run into the road, but
know:  .kcab gniog oN

When I look at cars
I number them by color.
Small red. Big yellow.

– haikus and photo by mary macgowan

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

He’d Promised They’d Go Out On His Boat

Beauty in the Decay Series #19

A man, keening,
kneeling.
She touched his shoulder:
honey?
but it was burlap
wound around
like a scarf;
ropes curled
in workboot shapes;
hot oil steaming –
not a cigarette.
No man, not
begging forgiveness.
Never (was).
A prayer.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– photo and poem by mary macgowan

This Is My Letter To The World

Beauty in the Decay Series #18

poem by Emily Dickinson

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me —
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

photo by mary macgowan

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

The Ravage of the European Starlings

Beauty in the Decay Series #17

She said, But this has nothing to do with the photo.
He said, I know.
She said, But I like it here anyway.
He said, I know.

The Ravage of the European Starlings

They imitate songbird calls
to sneak into their nests
and ruin their eggs, maybe
eat them for all we know.
Feeders and suet ruined.
All the nice birds, gone.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

White Tee

Beauty in the Decay Series #15

This is an old dock in an area where the lake has dried up. Photo taken from my rowboat in shallow water . . .

White Tee

Today’s wind rushes
at my white tee
and cut-offs
hanging
on the clothesline.
A wild mare
comes alive inside them.
They billow
around her lean muscles
as she rears up,
trying to escape.

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

photo and poem by mary macgowan. the poem was published in a previous version in Assisi, 2011.

The Sparrows Are Out Tonight

Beauty in the Decay Series #14

With a charming poem by Chester Maynes, as found on his wonderful blog!

Sparrows

The sparrows are out tonight
In the expanse of the sky
Dashing in different motions
Like flames in several portions

Every glide tells a narrative
Soaring a pungent account
From page 1 to page 101
Sparrows can tell diverse stories

They tell me something
They give me signs
Of life and of love
Of life and of love

– poem by Chester Maynes, 2009, printed with permission. Check out his blog at:
http://chestermaynes.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/sparrows/

The Beauty in the Decay Series
is attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

A Broom With Her Wayward Dustpan

Beauty in the Decay Series #11

A broom with her wayward dustpan,
a phone with his seldom pen.
The brushing of love
into untamed curls.

Attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things;
how nature will have its way.
The captivating presence of the process.

– poem and photo by mary macgowan

Waitwaitwaitwaitwait

Beauty in the Decay Series #7

My first and only Barbie. She’s about 50 years old.
This decay – her baldness – I find it difficult to see as beautiful.
Her bald head is so vulnerable and tender, but I feel
embarrassed for her.  
I used to make Barbie and Ken kiss, and then I’d leave them, entwined and passionate, under blankets.
They come in boxes now. Twisty ties keep them in place.

A poem that starts with Barbie and ends with dead pigeons in marigolds….

Waitwaitwaitwaitwait

Barbie tied up in her box,
twisty-ties choking
her wrists, ankles, neck.
A window for watching.
The brain-damaged girl
drew Barbie’s face,
the steady scratch-scratch
of her #2 pencil.

That was when a boy
came to my office each week
to scream Fuck Shit Bitch
as he punched Playdoh.

A healer told me
to be a tree.
Send my tap root
down to the core
of the earth. It zoomed
ferociously, grotesquely huge
from between my legs
forging a trajectory down
there where there is no end.
But now my tap root

is a drag.
While walking in a garden
it crushes cockle shell rows.
It bursts through car floors
to destroy highways, bridges.
Disasters trail behind me.
I grow weary of all the required
repairs, facts that need fixing.

Back then we lived across
from a pigeon shoot.
The injured ones
would flutter over and roost
clumsy in our eaves.
Mornings we’d find them
still warm, lying in a pool
of marigolds.

Attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things; how nature will have its way.

– photos and poem by mary macgowan

Listening To A Meditation Talk While In The Bathtub

Beauty in the Decay Series #6

rinsing my hair
i dunk underwater;
water fills my ears
just as the speaker says
“And buddha said…”
i might hit rewind
to hear what i missed
but i like the holes in the philosophy

Attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things; how nature will have its way.

– photo by mary macgowan