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Poem for Sunday: To Come Again in Spring

photo of spiderweb
photo of spiderweb

Tiny Spider

As the spring unfolds with longer days and milder temperatures, we remember what has passed.

It was the tiny spider in the delicate, worn web that inspired this slideshow from 2009 and poem from 2011.

Each year I leave the plants in my garden standing for the birds, insects and other residents of my garden to use for winter accommodations. In spring of 2009 I began preparing the garden section by section and happened to see this spider and her delicate web outlined in the spring sunshine. She had died long before but continued to cling there all winter long, and her web held up against any number of storms.

Her eggs would have been laid on the stem adjacent to her web which would catch the first insects in spring, and when they hatched the little spiders could have their first meal of the insects caught in the web and use her web as a launching pad. I found it so moving that on that bright early March afternoon I went through my garden looking for other such images.

All the other native plants had left behind their skeletons, and the effect of these was haunting, like finding a ghost town or an unknown world.

I had to let them say their last goodbye. I photographed each desolate construction with attention to extreme details you might never notice to show the intrinsic, transient beauty of these empty shells. The sepia tones are the natural coloring of the plants in the stark spring sunlight, that interim color palette between the blues of winter and the greens of spring. Below is a link to a slideshow I composed and posted on my website; when you view it, you’ll see that many of the plats I’ve photographed are criss-crossed with tattered little webs.

To Come Again in Spring

In this sepia scene
of late-winter twigs and matted leaves
I found the small tattered orb she had built that lasted the winter,
this tiny creature no larger than a grain of sand
now curled in the center, her spirit long gone
from her desiccated body,
yet her tiny children,
awakened by a warming spring sun,
will emerge from all the crevices
in the plant she chose as their birthplace
and find that her final creation
helps provide their first meal,
delicate strands catching the earliest gnats,
though these too be
the children of other mothers;
and so the returning songbirds will catch
the tiny spiders as they leave their web of safety
and find sustenance to begin their families
all toiling through the year to grow and thrive
to prepare for the dark of winter
and to come, again, in spring.

Poem To Come Again in Spring © 2011 B.E. Kazmarski

I read this poem at my 2011 poetry reading at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, but did not set up a web page for that reading, and it is not included in my poetry book. Perhaps a reason to finally build the page from that reading, and get started on a new poetry book…

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.

And click here to bring up the slideshow of the images I took this day.


poetry book cover paths i have walked

“Paths I Have Walked”, collected poems from poetry readings.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


Iron Heat

cast iron radiator
cast iron radiator

Iron Heat

Do you want to guess what this is?

Okay, it’s a cast iron radiator at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, catching the afternoon sun at just the right angle to highlight all the gingerbread decoration. A purely functional thing, but so beautiful.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Poem for Saturday: Vintage

vintage items
vintage items

Treasures

What a variety of color, shape, pattern, object…this still life was totally unplanned and nearly unseen. Likely Judi was simply clearing items off the counter and placed the Lover’s Knot Lace-edged hankie on the chair, then pulled the necklaces that hadn’t been selling and lined them up on her hand, turning around and setting it all down on the traditional pillow-ticking pillowcase on the antique chair behind the counter in the shop, Carnegie Antiques. I saw it out of the corner of my eye, then went back around the shop looking for what I’d seen peripherally while doing something else.

Vintage

Colorful beaded necklaces, orange and apple green, and pearls and plastic flowers, a linen hankie with soft green lovers-knot lace edging, a blue and white stripe pillow cover, real pillow-ticking, a ruffled chair cushion, what made these things so cherished that they survived the years intact, ready to be cherished again even when similar things, in other hands were broken, stained, discarded?

Were they curious heirlooms from a dear ancestor, whose very touch caused an item to be cherished? A gift from lover to beloved, kept for the memory of a special night? A young girl trying her hand at the lovely things her nurturing grandmother taught her? Jade beads purchased to match a special dress and kept “for good”, just a glance at the box recalling a fond memory?

Though we’d like to choose noble symbols for our memories we mark them with what is at hand, familiar everyday items; the next generations may shake their heads and wonder even as they set aside their own vintage memories. poem © 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


poetry book

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning. Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings. Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way. All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it. Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”. $8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class). You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace. About the books and the poetry readings My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh. In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I  was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers. My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. Each year I am invited back to read my poetry and exhibit my artwork. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


Foreboding

Crystal chess set
Crystal chess set

Foreboding

It does look like a scene from a cemetery. Maybe it’s the bare trees in the background.

But it’s just the crystal chess set at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie. A kind patron donated it, and it does look grand on the century old oak library table. It migrates around, but the building was built to catch as much light as possible from the tall windows, so even on a dark day like this, it reflects the light and casts interesting shadows on the table and on its own glass board.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


The Christmas Moon

photo of moon over hill
photo of moon over hill

The Christmas Moon

This is one of my stories of Christmas magic, a little interesting moment that really did happen one Christmas night a several years ago.

A few years ago I was driving home on a Christmas night, traveling along a dark two-lane road in a somewhat rural area that was familiar and fairly close to home. As dusk fell the light dusting of snow around me was tending to violet and the perfectly clear blue sky above me was also deepening to violet in the east. As I turned a bend in the road I met with surprise a big bright and creamy full moon perfectly placed above the uneven horizon line, a mix of pine trees and the reaching bare branches of deciduous trees, these nearly silhouetted against the sky. I smiled at the pure beauty of the scene as I drove along, vowing to remember the composition and carry its beauty with me.

As I followed the curves of the road the moon seemed to follow me on my right, a watchful presence as I drove through the deepening twilight. I had just driven my brother back to the nursing home where he was living while recovering from a traumatic brain injury, and then my mother who was living in personal care in the after effects of lung cancer and congestive heart failure. The two places were at least 50 miles apart and the journey took quite some time on both highways and back roads. I had cooked a Christmas dinner at my house, set everything aside to keep warm and gone to pick up each of them. We ate our dinner and I packed a few leftovers for each of them before getting them back in time for dinner medications. At each place I stopped for a while to help them in and to get resettled in their respective spaces and discuss their care with staff. Now I was on my way home to pack up the rest of the dinner, wash dishes and clean up my kitchen, there was very little traffic and the day had been beautiful, clear and sunny though cold and now, alone, I had some time to ponder.

Deep in thought about these two and about my own life since they’d suffered their illnesses, I considered our day then moved to other Christmases, other holidays, other family members, other homes. In my distraction I slowed down with the rises and falls and bends in the road in the growing darkness, still aware of that full moon following me out of the corner of my eye.

A small valley opened out on my right, a flood plain along a stream, a familiar thing to one who walks the woods and valleys in Western Pennsylvania: a level area filled with young trees, scrub and brambles which had recently enough been the rich bottomland field of a farm, bordered by a narrow stream, and behind that a rather steep tree-covered hill. These small valleys appeared on one side of the road then the other, and with a little traveling the valley would rise up into a hill that bordered the road while on the other side the hill would fall into a valley, up and down, the road, the landscape, the rhythm was comforting, like rocking slowly in a rocking chair.

As I passed this little valley I noticed movement among the trees, probably a deer as this was the time of day they moved about and that was the perfect area for them to be having an evening meal. Though I hadn’t been facing that direction and didn’t actually see anything directly the movement hadn’t seemed to be a deer, and more by intuition than actual fact it had seemed human to me. We recognize these things without realizing, that ancient part of our brain assembling patterns and instinctive knowledge before our slower logical brain can react, and making out of the pieces something we can recognize.

The fact that it might be a person was not a problem, really, the little valley was essentially someone’s back yard and it would not be unusual for them to be walking around there even on Christmas, and while I might wonder if the person was in danger or in need of some sort I would be most likely to allow them their privacy. But something about the figure had also seemed familiar, I had no idea why, probably that ancient brain reacting again, but I trust it when it does that. And even though I wanted to get back home and clean up my kitchen, I slowed down and pulled to the side of the road. If there was a possibility I tried to pursue these little ideals that arose, stopping to explore. At that time, with all the complications of my life, I rarely felt I had the time to spend chasing an illusion, but I didn’t question the need to explore this one.

I had passed the valley by that time so it was now behind me, but I backed up along the berm of the road to a spot where I could see into it.

That silent pale yellow moon, now nearly white, still shone on my right, risen slightly higher above the horizon than before, and shone directly into the little space lighting the snow cover to a pale silver violet and the tree trunks to varying shades of pale gray against the charcoal-shadowed hill in the background. Everything seemed still, but I detected movement flitting among the trees, thought I saw the glint of moonlight on hair, on an arm, a dress. I opened my car window and shut off my radio and then my car’s engine. If those were people moving down there, they should be crunching in the snow, but I heard no sound in the crisp, clear air.

But I felt such a strong presence. Quietly opening my door and standing up in the bits of snow and gravel at the edge of the grass along the road, I heard only far off sounds, a plane in the sky, a car traveling somewhere, a dog barking. The air was so clear I thought I’d hear sounds from miles away traveling quickly through the cold, windless darkness, leaving little virtual contrails as they moved through the infinity of a cold winter night, but nothing came up from the valley, neither from hooves nor feet.

And if, instead of being the author, I was reading this and didn’t know the story, I’d be yelling, “You idiot! Get back in the car!” No, this isn’t going to turn into a made-for-TV movie, I remained alone, you are safe to read on without fear. I am cautious and always aware, but didn’t feel in any way threatened, in fact I felt safe and welcome.

As I stood there, one hand on my open car door, I thought I recognized one of the figures out of the corner of my eye, and as it is with focusing on subjects in near darkness the figure disappeared when I looked directly at it. But I knew it was my mother, walking quickly and gracefully as she had done when young, laughing soundlessly over her shoulder before disappearing into the darkness. Then I saw one of my aunts, also laughing but in a conversation with someone else, typically a sour and sarcastic person but here, almost unrecognizable in her happiness. And as I stood there I saw other relatives, aunts and uncles, even ones I’d never known and only seen in photos, just a few seconds each, and all were happy and laughing and moving here and there, the little valley was full of these specters.

Then I realized that each of these were the people I’d been thinking about as I drove along. Had I manifested them? Was I hallucinating? I hadn’t even had a glass of wine yet, waiting until I was back home in my warm kitchen in my stocking feet and wearing an apron, washing my dishes and singing along with the radio as I almost wished I was right then.

But here they were in this magical little valley and what had made me slow my car, had drawn me out to experience it was the joy in the scene, they were all enjoying themselves, happy and laughing, something that had not always been so in real life; some of them, sadly, rarely so. Here they all were together in this little parallel universe.

I had been thinking so deeply about them all as I drove in that deepening twilight under the watchful eye of that full moon, remembering where I had memories of them or simply imagining those who I’d never met. When I create a scene for artwork or writing I visualize it pretty completely and even sometimes I get so lost in these necessary alternate realities that I feel the cold or hot or wind, I have the conversation, I see the light in a person’s eyes. In that manner of visualizing, in that dusky time of day when I feel the veil of reality thin and the closeness of those who aren’t with me along with that magical moon and its light among the trees, my thoughts for those brief seconds became real, and I saw them as I wanted them to be, or perhaps as they really were without the worries and weariness of everyday life, happy to be together, happy to be alive. I will never know which it was, but I would be comforted to know this was how they would all spend eternity.


Pomegranate Landscape

photo of inside of a pomegranate
photo of inside of a pomegranate

Pomegranate Landscape

If the days feel too dark and the nights too long, have a pomegranate.

Pomegranates are just so lovely. I peel them to see the little rubies inside, and pull out those sweet, juicy berries one by one. The sun came in the kitchen window and I knew I had to do my best to capture the essence of pomegranate.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Colorful Stars on Main Street

Holiday lights on Main Street.
Holiday lights on Main Street.

Holiday lights on Main Street.

Carnegie’s holiday decorations light up the street. Main Street is getting to look like this, and I can’t beat this photo, at least not yet this year.

Hmmm, how can I make a street I photograph all the time look a little different from the last year? Well, get out the cross-screen filter for starters so that each light or highlight in the images has extra interest; I like to set the cross a little off-kilter, not a plus-sign, not an “X”, but something in between. Next, use the 70-300mm zoom lens and manual focus so just the very first light and wreath are in focus and all the rest, all the wreaths all the way down Main Street to Washington Avenue, are successively blurred just a little each step of the way. Even the stop lights look festive, as noted in a holiday song. I liked the effect.

Last night as I was crouched to photograph this in a fairly dark spot on Main Street, I frightened a couple of teenage guys who apparently didn’t see me before I suddenly stood up very near to them, and the shuttle that takes residents from one of the local nursing homes on their errands stopped, opened the door and looked at me, then went on. I photographed this last year as well, and included a story of photographing where people don’t expect it, including hunching down in the dark by a wall wearing a cape and having the police stop to ask what you’re up to.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Bubbles

art glass
art glass

Bubbles

Angled autumn sun catches all the bubbles in the glass, the glass itself, and all the sparkles on the leaves and branches outside in the morning. It looks positively effervescent.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Poem for Saturday: My Mother’s Tuesday Afghan

photo of colorful crocheted afghan
photo of colorful crocheted afghan

My mother’s Tuesday afghan.

I stopped in at the nursing home to see my mother on a November afternoon in 2010, and, really, the first thing I saw when I looked in her room was the afghan pictured above, and it immediately took me back to an earlier day, a similar afghan…and a younger mother.

. . . . . . .

My Mother’s Tuesday  Afghan

She was calling, calling
reaching from the depths of the body
I no longer recognized
to this world she no longer recognizes
an imitation of reality
patched together from
leftovers of memories,
pleading for someone to do something,
but the first thing I saw
was the afghan across her bed
one big granny square
row upon row growing larger
each row a different color
brighter and more cheerful
with each row.

She recognizes my voice
but not really who I am
still I can guide her attention
away from her unidentified need
in this unfamiliar world
to where mine had gone
when I saw the afghan
remembering one just like it I’d made
decades before as a young teenager
scraps of yarn from other afghans I’d made
for other family members
each row a different person
a different room in a different house
a different memory
and given to my brother.

And so with leftover scraps of memories
tied to leftover scraps of yarn
I led her back to her home,
the afghans, my brother, the 70s
all of us
a time I knew she held close
until her voice lost the desperate note
and she sat back
talking of the neighborhood
and the new kitchen makeover,
my cat Bootsie and her kittens,
and of people who had died years ago
and, surrounded by these familiar things
in an era where I’ve always felt she was happiest,

I hoped she might spend the afternoon there.

Poem (c) 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

She was in her bed calling for someone to do something, I’m not sure what, and it took a while for her to recognize my voice; her macular degeneration had virtually blinded her, just as her dementia had done, taking away the reality we see and feel every day and replacing it with an inferior imitation, patched together from the leftovers of memories. Visiting her at that point, just two months before she died, was not easy because she was mentally so far away and the confusion really frightened her. I appreciated any tiny kernel that could help to organize her mind, and in this case, mine as well.

I did my best to take her mind from her unidentified need by pointing out the afghan, which she could barely see though I described it. I’d made one much like it years before just as I described, out of scraps of yarn left over from afghans I’d made for sister and aunts and even neighbors, every row a different color, a different person, a different room, a different home, round and round, and gave it to my brother who hadn’t yet received one of my crocheted creations, and through many situations he kept it for years though it had ended up in her house. Pulling together those odds and ends of memory, the yarn, the afghans, the 70s, my brother, all slowly steered her to a different memory, focused on a different time, and I hoped she might spend her afternoon there.

Ironically, that time was a profoundly unhappy time for me, one I’d rather not remember, but perhaps visiting it in this context softened the edge of memory.

My mother died just two days before I had a poetry reading scheduled. The day she died, after taking care of much business, I went late in the night to sit on my porch swing in the dark and watch the snow fall, and wrote a poem for her and decided to go through with my reading in her honor. I read this poem as well as the dedication poem at that reading.

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


poetry book

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I  was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. Each year I am invited back to read my poetry and exhibit my artwork. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


The Orange Smiley-face Ball

orange ball on street
orange ball on street

The Ball

Because everyone needs an orange smiley-face ball to roll across street in front of them.

I don’t know the story of the orange smiley-face ball but it rolled across the street in front of me on a Saturday back in 2009 on a day when I really needed a reminder to smile, so I like to share it now and then, just because. Have a beautiful day!


The Ruby Slipper

red slipper on broken pavement
red slipper on broken pavement

The Ruby Slipper

The story is yours to write.

. . . . . . .

If you’d like a print of this photo it is available in my photography collection in my Fine Art America gallery entitled “Ruby Slipper”.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Angels Go Barefoot

angle statue with bare feet
angle statue with bare feet

Angels Go Barefoot

I am glad to see that angels go barefoot. I’d hate to think I had to wear shoes through all eternity. Wearing shoes through the winter will be difficult enough.

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


The Umbrella Garden, 2011

umbrellas in a garden
umbrellas in a garden

The Umbrella Garden

A garden full of umbrellas? On a mild sunny day? I had to stop.

These people have always had a lovely garden, and surrounded their corner lot with prize-winning dahlias. Now, apparently, the garden is all about the dahlias with a few tomato plants thrown in. Typically, you want the sun and rain to reach the plants in a garden. I’m sure the umbrellas are there to protect the dahlias, whose large multi-petaled flowers on plants which may be 5 feet tall are easily destroyed by storms. They may be just for joy, or they may actually be growing them for a competition.

There is something I like in the choice of umbrellas, too, uniform in size and shape and style. But I wonder if they ever close the umbrellas so they can see their dahlias.

This is still one of the most popular images on my site! The dahlias didn’t do so well this year…

. . . . . . .

For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


All-Day Vegetable Soup

photo of vegetable soup
photo of a pot of soup

All-day Vegetable Soup

I first ran this on Labor Day 2010, but it’s coming around to the time for it. At the height of the growing season, visiting the farmer’s market with all its shapes and colors and people and languages and sounds and smells, and gathering herbs and vegetables in the quiet of my own garden, then the afternoon of organizing the ingredients, cleaning and trimming and chopping, stirring things in the big pot, the slightly steamy windows and the scents filling every area of the house seems to set the tone for autumn on our first cool day as the leaves begin to change.

I long ago finished the last container from the freezer from last year’s pot of soup. I’m looking forward to taking out a container of harvest freshness in the dark of the coming winter.

This was my “labor” on Labor Day!

I make All-day Vegetable Soup on the first cool day in the fall with the freshest vegetables from my garden or the farmer’s market if I’m out of something. A big pot of soup simmered all day tastes different from a small pot of soup cooked an hour or two.

It’s also a great day to make bread because it will rise beautifully with the steam and warmth from a big pot of soup.

Use the big canning pot that holds five gallons of liquid, add two gallons of stock you’ve made over the summer from simmering vegetables, or just use plain water.

Add, to taste:

  • garlic (I use a whole clove)
  • onion, white or yellow, one or two large ones
  • six stalks chopped celery, reserve tops for later
  • 3 lbs. chopped tomatoes
  • four cups chopped carrots
  • four cups chopped potatoes
  • four cups green and/or yellow beans snapped in 1-inch sections
  • whole small head of cabbage or half large, chopped
  • four cups slice zucchini
  • fresh corn kernels from four ears of corn
  • four cups fresh peas
  • four cups chopped broccoli
  • four cups chopped cauliflower
  • anything else you have on hand: turnips, parsnips or other root crops, brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, mustard or other greens whatever you want in your soup
  • two cups of dried beans, can be all the same but I use a little of each kind of dried bean I have in the kitchen: kidney, pink, great northern, navy, lima, etc.
  • chopped fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, thyme

Boil stock.

Reduce to simmer. Add dry beans.

Add chopped vegetables one by one, beginning with the firmest, like carrots, and ending with the greens.

Simmer at least two hours past the last vegetable added.

Add chopped fresh herbs, simmer one half hour more.

Let sit, covered, for about an hour.

Eat several bowls.

Let cool completely, which can take hours depending on how much you made.

Can in pressure canner or freeze in freezer containers.

Open a jar in January and remember summer.


Poem for the Dream: The Mystic Chords of Memory

"Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!" ~from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech August 28, 1963

“Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!” ~from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech August 28, 1963

I never actually saw a sign that said “Whites Only”, I never saw an African-American turned down for services or merchandise in a store, I never saw the outright physical proof of institutionalized discrimination. In the white little world of my childhood, it was simply understood. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on this day in 1963, I was two years old and some of the bloodiest battles for equal rights were still ahead, and it is those battles I remember, and the words that were spoken in the heat of that battle.

I never heard my parents say a single derogatory remark about anyone who wasn’t “white” though I heard many others. In our house sports superseded anyone’s skin color. When the Pittsburgh Pirates played, we were cheering Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Matty Alou, and I think we may have ignored a “color barrier” even without the influence of sports. My mother had attended school in the 1930s with African-American girls, when my father played as a musician in swing bands through the years he was friends with many African-American musicians. My brother and I had African-American friends in high school, friendships which lasted in many cases, and my sister as well.

I remember wishing in my early years and in my childish way that people would just let it go, it was so confusing to fight with each other, and to carry this hate for people I didn’t know in the case one would show up in my life. How would I know? I knew their skin was darker than ours but, darn, I come from a family who gets pretty tan in the summer and later we laughed because we were darker than some of the African-Americans we knew.

I remember thinking I couldn’t keep track of all this when I had to learn to spell and my multiplication tables and all the flowers in everyone’s garden and take care of all those things that were more immediate in my life, and when I began to see things as an artist I saw different skin tones as a challenge of art, not hate.

And even then, the issue wasn’t just civil rights for African-Americans, it was equality for everyone so we could all live together as a nation, as it was for Lincoln during the Civil War, and as it is for us today. I wrote this poem for the election day in 2008, as we keep on marching for liberty and justice for all.

The Mystic Chords of Memory

I begin with an epigraph, the closing paragraph of Lincoln’s first inaugural address:

I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

And so do we remember, in this time of change,
Another time of strife and uncertainty
When our nation would be pulled apart
Not by something so esoteric as a failing economy
But by the real threat of war, among ourselves, on our own soil;
Not a metaphorical war, not of words and ideas,
But of guns and blood,
And brothers and fathers and mothers and sisters,
Neighbors and friends, everyone, no one would escape its reach.
And so we fought that war, and though severely wounded, we survived.

Yet a century later we were still fighting this battle in our streets.
We forgot those who had already given the last full measure of devotion(1) for this cause.
We were reminded that we must live together as brothers or perish together as fools(2),
And that the fierce urgency of Now(3) demanded that we make real the promises of democracy(4),
Echoing the words of a century before, and even a century before that.
But we took away his dream, too,
And the dreams of others
Until the bloodshed frightened us,
Reminded that a balance cannot exist without compromise,
And an uncompromising nature destroys everything in its path, including itself.

I remember those days of my childhood,
Of the fledgling hope that we could simply live together in understanding,
But I watched people tuck away their hatred to keep for another day
And it only grew distorted,
And a half century later, we still fought the battle in our hearts.
But to my great surprise and joy,
I watched a nation of people,
Touched by the better angels of their nature(5),
March to the promised land(6),
Happily wait all day, finally cast their vote
For change, for hope, and for love of this great experiment in liberty and freedom,
Ready to begin again the work of remaking America(7).

1Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address”, dedication of the battlefield at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863.
2Martin Luther King, Jr., quote.
3Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, speech given at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963.
4Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, speech given at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963.
5Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”, given in Washington, D.C., March 4, 1861.
6Martin Luther King, Jr., “I See the Promised Land”, speech given in Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968.
7Barack Obama, “Inaugural Address”, given in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2009.

“The Mystic Chords of Memory” © 2009 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


poetry book

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two
poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


Little Free Library

little free library
box with books in front yard

Little Free Library

Imagine having a little free lending library in your front yard, the one below is in front of the Animal Nature pet supply store, both in Regent Square, in Pittsburgh. Stock it with books, encourage others to borrow one and return it when they’re done, just like a regular lending library but no library cards and all built on trust. Find a steward and purchase one of the little shelters, then add books. Read more at Little Free Library.

little free library

Little Free Library


Rainy Morning

photo with saying
photo of raindrops on hangers

Raindrops on Hangers

Sometimes the most unusual things are beautiful.

photo with saying

open your heart to unexpected moments of beauty

See more photos of rain.


Old Paint

rusty painted rocker
rusty painted rocker

Old Paint

My old vintage metal rocker is slowly rusting into oblivion. Under the tangerine and white I added, the rocker had variously been forest green, fire engine red and sunshine yellow. I rescued it from someone’s trash about the time I moved in here so this faithful metal rocker had a couple of extra decades. Soon it will meet the scrap guy, but I don’t think it will mind.


Colorful

paint on hand
paint on hand

Painted Hand

I used all the paints in my collection for a little project today, and as usual got a fair amount on my hands.

It’s a little difficult to photograph my own hand with my DSLR, so the heel of my hand is a little out of focus.


Old Color and New

basket of gourds on rocker
basket of gourds on rocker

Old Colors and New

I was stunned by the volumes of bold texture in every element of this photo including the shadows, and the contrast of the warm weathered tones of the gourds, basket and woven rocker seat with the turquoise of the rocker itself. I look at this all the time, but not until the angled evening light came between the houses  and washed over just a part of it, just the tops of everything, that these mysteries were revealed.

This rocker and a few other features starred in another photo from last fall, “Autumn Colors”.


Nobody Here But Us Chickens, 2012

two chicken scarecrows
two chicken scarecrows

Nobody Here But us Chickens

Someone has fun with scarecrows in a newly-planted garden. If this treatment of an avian species doesn’t keep the crows away they might as well just give up.

I just had to share this one again!


Sidewalk Sunflower

tar and spraypaint on sidewalk
tar and spraypaint on sidewalk

Sidewalk Sunflower

It’s about the only thing blooming around here!

Perhaps they are learning from my neighbor children with their sidewalk chalk. Usually the utility workers with their spray cans are not so artistic. This is apparently a gas line access, since the gas company uses school bus yellow to mark their utility lines. Instead of the usual “X” or “+” depending on your perspective, this person added an extra crossbar. When slight depression left for the access plate was filled in with asphalt, the gritty, grainy black looked like sunflower seeds crowding the center of a sunflower, making the yellow crossbars look like petals.


Orange

pieces of orange glass
pieces of orange glass

Orange

You just never know what you’ll find when the snow melts and the sun shines. This color was so intense and the glass so interesting I actually saw it from far down the street on the edge of a gravel parking lot. It’s very thick and oddly shaped and I really can’t figure out what the original object was unless it was a clear glass object or sculpture. In any case, it’s in interesting composition on it own, and a sight for sore eyes this time of the year.


Tennies

tennis shoes over the telephone line
tennis shoes over the telephone line

Tennies

Wonder which neighborhood kid is missing a pair of tennis shoes. Traditions.