Yellow

Yellow is exuberance loosed

from green to bloom,

bucking in warmth.


Yellow is light,

bitter spice,

surprise, then delight.


Yellow is inhale or exhale,

spring or fall,

first or last.


Yellow is small sunbursts

penetrating eyelids,

I walk on life in process. 


Yellow is straining light

towards light.

I give up.


Yellow.

Blooming Palo Verde tree

On Strike

I’m on strike. I don’t belong to the Musicians Union anymore. Since Covid-19 slammed us in 2020 I have been fully retired from performing or teaching the flute. Even so, I consider myself to be on strike.

It’s been an ongoing annoyance to me when the name of a performing musician is not credited. I cheer when I see a televised opera production or broadcast concert that lists the instrumentalists’ names, and not only those of the conductor and the production staff. I have written letters to the editor when the name of a reviewed musician has been omitted, or credit has been given to the wrong performer. Open the program! And herein lies the problem.

I bought a partial subscription to the Tucson Symphony’s Classic series this season, now that we are slowly returning to in-person concerts. While my husband and I enjoyed the four concerts, the programs did not contain the names of the harpists, the extra musicians, or the substitute musicians. This practice began while I was still playing with the TSO. I was never a contracted player but I was a regular substitute and first-call substitute for most of those 30-plus years. My name would be listed because the program was printed for each concert, with an accurate listing of performers. I was paid at the same rate as the contracted players. I was doing the same work, after all!

One of the ways symphony orchestras appear to have decided they could save money was by printing programs at the beginning of the season and with more than one concert per program. The list contains only the names of contracted orchestra members.

Appeal to the union, right? That does no good if one is a substitute musician. Even though Arizona is a right-to-work state, I spent several years as a dues-paying union member because I wanted to support my fellow musicians. However, there was absolutely no benefit to me. If you are curious, there is pertinent information in these two linked articles.  

Appeal to my colleagues? I tried. One orchestra committee member told me point-blank that they had more important issues to address.

To be clear, I never was anything close to a “scab.” I was frequently called in to substitute and, quite frankly, cover the asses of colleagues who wanted to take a better gig, had a conflict with other work or felt they weren’t quite up to the task of performing certain repertoire.

I loved my work, but I’m old enough and wise enough now to love myself more. We won’t be spending our money or our time on many future Tucson Symphony concerts until credit is given where credit is due. While it may not make any difference within the organization, it will make a difference to me. Consider me an audience member, on strike.

Bright Red Windblown Mane

Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.
A memory attends this pause in time.
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

My mind recalls a breeze of childhood pain.
Sharp wind-whipped mane enacts a pantomime.
Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.

A gallop through that field was near insane.
I feel the rush of that far summertime. 
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

She tripped, she fell and on the ground I’d lain.
I got back up and brushed away the grime.
Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.

It seemed beyond my grasp that she’d ordain,
I let her go and live beyond my crime.
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

A second act, I’m older, more humane.
My song continues, cantering in rhyme.
Pale sunlight streams through bright red windblown mane.
My heart, my all soars high on this refrain.

Sweet Al gazing out at his new pasture home in Amado.

A New Year Sestina

December rains called forth a new spring.
This is the way of the Sonoran Desert.
Yesterday, when skies cleared midmorning,
Tom hitched up the horse trailer,
and I brought forth my burnished chestnut horse,
rain-scrubbed and shiny like the proverbial penny.

I have spent many a pretty penny:
on a fancy brush to help remove shedding coats in spring,
on saddles and pads and blankets for the horse,
on supplements to balance the iron-rich hay grown in the desert.
I filled a bag with this hay and hung it in the trailer.
I haltered my horse, luminous in the golden light of midmorning.

It’s time to go now. Our midmorning
plan unfolds, like my checkbook, another spent penny.
Through the aisle of stalls, we promenade, onward to the trailer.
My horse walks with little hesitation, an easy spring
in his stride as we cross the New Year’s Day desert.
I marvel at the grace of this horse.

What is it about a horse?
It’s my good fortune to share another midmorning
in the light of this creature, a copper penny
vision framed by creosote-scented desert.
His hooves touch the rubbery incline, and he’s in the trailer,
reassured by my promise of another spring.

The door closes, held tight by a spring.
Since the days of the Iron Horse,
the Amado Ranch has existed. It’s our destination this midmorning
and the perfect backdrop for a historical movie. The trailer
might dramatize the settling of the American West, a time when each hard-spent penny
bought up land and the means to reshape the unforgiving desert.

But today, we drive south on I-19 through a refreshed desert.
Saguaros are hydrated, stately, and amused, arms embracing spring.
The sky isn’t falling. I’m no hysterical Henny-Penny.
Here is the ranch! Bienvenidos, my lucky horse!
His shaking hindquarters ease from the trailer–
his eye takes in the new horizon, distinct in late midmorning.

Spellbound by this expanse of desert, I see beyond and into my horse.
The confines of the trailer choked the brightness of midmorning.
Here, he fits smoothly and snuggly as a penny in a loafer. Eternal spring.

Hold on Tight

“Don’t trust your horse on a slack rein? Well, he doesn’t trust you with a bit.” ~ Anna Blake

How many times were we reminded to hold on tight as children? Hold on to the rail. Hold on to a parent’s hand. Hold on to the dog’s leash. Hold on to the carousel pony. Hold on tight!

We grow up and gain strength. Tight becomes confining. We continue holding on even when a tight grip chokes the life out of things. We feel safer holding on. Our hands become strong and somehow we think maybe, just maybe, if we hold on more tightly, life will proceed closer to the way we expect it to.

Yesterday I rode my mare on a trail ride through the desert. If you have a moment would you mind doing a little rain dance? Clouds built up yesterday afternoon and I’m hopeful, but last year’s monsoon season was such a bust I wouldn’t mind all the helpful intention we can get! But, let’s get those hooves back on the trail.

Rocky is a bold creature and a well-seasoned trail horse. Two fellow boarders asked us to go along so Rocky could lend their geldings her courage. She likes to lead. As we started out, three fawn-colored bully-looking dogs came charging at us, right off their property. The gate was open. I told them they were good doggos, to remind them of who they are (another tip of my helmet to Anna). I stopped Rocky, who was unfazed by the barking and gallumping, and looked at my fellow riders to make sure they were doing okay. The dogs’ owner called them in and the three turned tail as a unit, maybe slightly disappointed that we weren’t all that impressed by their charge. I called out to them and told them what very good dogs they were as they trotted back to their house. One looked back over his shoulder at us from the other side of the fence, slightly cowed. I think they got in trouble.

We continued on our way. Rocky is a fast walker. Behind her was the beautiful Morgan, Legado, and bringing up the rear was Stewart Little, who is a sturdy and small Gypsy Cob. I had to remind Rocky to help me check on our cohort and to keep her pace leisurely. “Just squeeze the rein a little,” I told myself. I reminded myself to allow my pelvis to be carried along by Rocky’s hind legs. We descended into a little gulch and Rocky broke into a trot. I had only sat deeper and asked her to walk without taking up any contact on the rein. Legado followed suit and his rider needed a moment to calm him. I made extra sure to prepare Rocky to walk carefully through the next few dips we encountered. It took extra asking on my part, and I don’t doubt I held the reins more tightly than she would have preferred, but she did what I asked.

When the trail smoothed out again, I felt a little tug. Rocky had asked for her rein back. I gave it to her. A little voice in my head said, “She pulls on the reins! She refuses to give to the bit! Keep contact!” My hands said, “Give it to her. She asked nicely. Trust that she knows what she is doing.”

Next time I hope to remember to ask consistently for what I want so she doesn’t have to guess, or make her own choice when it’s best that we work together. I’m certain we both like it better that way.



Maybe you are just a little

Maybe just a little too damaged to fulfill
the dream.
Whose dream is it anyway?

Maybe retreat is called for.
Aggression, narcissism,
two sides of the same coin.

You don’t have to be spendy
to be worth something.
Don’t listen to what they say.

Shyness, arrogance,
labels help but truth helps more.
Human perception is our reality.

Seriously, dude. It’s all we have.
Fairy tales are amusing
but reality gets us further.




Seeking Refuge

Pure folly,
and an unfair imposition to place
on a creature so fine as the horse.
Herein lies a scuffle between longing and love.

How I long to retreat between the warmth of hay-scented hides,
warm and facile, flicking flies away, multi-tasking skin.
Horses’ alert rhythms seem protective, insulating, a shield against the
noisy, grasping, gasping world
of us humans.

Global threats urge me to curl, quiescent,
to freeze and wait.
“It shall pass, it shall pass, it shall pass,” I whisper to myself, less in fear
than in blank comprehension of my perverse happiness
at having a convenient excuse to avoid grocery shopping.

Fear and love.
Herds of horses, provoked by necessity, will run,
a thundering cloud of beauty-dust,
leaving me longing for four hooves and fleetness.

Work and love.
Hordes of humans long for their chance,
that moment of brilliance, an opportunity to hold tight.
We might inadvertently forget to breathe.

I’ve turned myself inside out believing dream after dream,
yielding not to the magnitude of such wonderous construction,
but holding up my imagination like a mirrored shield.
Hungry for an embrace, I’ve allowed seductive images to envelop me,
and even as I struggle to emerge, I stumble.

Tired and clichéd, I hesitate ~

not wanting to wallow,
though I long to stretch my hide against the sand,
to roll satisfyingly,
closer to dust.

To stand apart and stand within,
to urge a way of being by
being true to my soft urges.
This is not so easy, this path is laden with mole holes and ego.

The other side of the field is not so far away.

My horses watch me.
They shy and withdraw, as I do.
They echo my boldness.
They know best as to how to be a horse, and of course, as always,
they are right.

Crumbles

Cake on the plate.
A peaceful break to sit
with the cake on the plate.
To break sweet bread and share a cup of tea
with friends.
Crumbs will fall.

Maybe on this day I will bake an orange loaf
and give it to my neighbor.
Maybe I will clean my office.
Maybe I will wet the beet pulp pellets for my horses.
The pellets will fall apart under hydration.

Oh, I know I will take feed to my horses.
Their hayful life is good keeping.
What to give away, what to keep?
I ponder this question.

I saw one friend disintegrate,
passed out and found,
passed around and lost.
Another friend seemed to slowly remove
bits and pieces of herself
until she was gone.

Once, when I was ten, a teacher asked the class
how we wanted to die.
Maybe this was an odd thing to do.
Maybe it was brave.
I said I wanted to be there and children laughed.

Of course I would be there,
but I wanted be aware, to participate in the moment,
to bring my curiosity.
How much do we get to choose?

My plan for today:
Make the cake.
Take the horse on a walk. Hoofprints will follow in the sandy soil.
Share thoughts and cookies with my friends.
The crumbs fall away like blessings.



Herniated Horsewoman

Gut punched. Stick the knife in and twist it.

I don’t want to spill my guts.
It’s a small tragedy, but it’s mine.
I want to cry and wail
and let the pain go in one massive explosion
then watch the skies clear as dust settles.

My plans were made and I’d saddled my pony,
a practice run for next week.
I thought I saw her looking wistfully at her companions out on the trail.
Desert spring songs are joyously enticing all things nascent.
I figured getting us aging mares out on the trail once or twice a week
would be good for us.

Imagine my disappointment.
It feels like a bodily betrayal, a stab in the soft underbelly, an insult to my intestinal fortitude.
If this is what it takes to bring the tears so be it.
Tears. Tears. Tears. Tears.
You can say it two different ways, you know.

Still, I’d rather pull that pain around and laugh at it
than sit with it.
At the moment it isn’t giving me much of a choice.
You can laugh until you cry.

Platitudes are an easy fallback and distracting.
Trust my gut my ass.



Advocates

When the love is too large
and it spills messily on the floor
and you are two years old,
strapped to a high chair,
you cry,
watching it lonely splat
all over the floor.
You toss your plate of overcooked spaghetti
to join it
then stop your tears,
your breath,
and peer downward.
The pause is needed.
The wails might overwhelm the masterpiece:
love and spaghetti.
When this happens the dog comes scampering over,
hastily lapping up both, heartily,
bringing brightness ~
until you are scolded,
but you know your love is safe in the dog’s belly.

When the love is too large
and your offerings form into words
that don’t stick
and aren’t caught,
words that float past unanswered,
not sad,
words that settle on a bluebird’s wing,
then fly
on the proverbial
wing and a prayer.
You hear them,
safe in flight,
as birdsong.

When the love is too large
and boys grow tall and somewhat frightening
because you can no longer run faster than they can
and they look at you differently,
(scared themselves,
of themselves?)
maybe it is too soon.
Love alights on round-backed ponies
in fields and novels and shiny magazine photos.
Black birds on sun-dappled hide.

When the the love is too large
even as years pass,
it lands heavily with a thud.
No innocent dream can carry it forever,
try as it may.
This is when the heart grows tentative,
taken over by a frantic quest for answers.
Careers, degrees, marriages, divorces,
children, hangovers, mistaken recognitions,
fears of love lost or love never found.
Exhaustion.
Resignation.

Love is there,
grazing,
prancing.
Just the right size.
They come to us
in this place and time
because we have earned our way.
Both of us.
Instinctually, unavoidably,
we are pulled
because the fit is inevitable
and perfect.
Our love is great enough
to carry them.

Atop Junior, the horse that called me back.