Summer Drifting

Summer usually asks us to let go and be carried away by our senses. For a brief moment at the height of heat and sunlight, when the rains arrive and flowers begin to crowd the garden, I surrender. I put aside my work, my attachment to order and structure, and let myself drift.

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It always feels strange–I don’t easily let go. It’s usually only when the wheel of the year is steadily turning, turning, and I can sense the passage of one season into the next that I realize it’s okay to belong to it completely. I can see that surrender is fleeting, and precious, and won’t take me too far off course.

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Maybe the four day river trip we just took, floating down the wilderness section of the Rio Chama helped me see all this. To have the outer world mirror the inner always helps with navigating life.

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We moved slowly through the day, carried by the river but trying not to move too quickly through the canyon. When the water grew still, we lifted the oars to spin and take in the view, to drift on flat water. We navigated the rapids and sleepers when they came. The girls chanted “It’s not over yet!” as we splashed through white water. Come afternoon, we tied the boat up when we arrived at a place that felt like home. IMG_4238

We’ve spent our share of time on the spectacular lower sections of this river, day tripping and camping and floating with improper gear. But I’ve always known there was something further up, inaccessible and out of sight. And I’ve been thirsty for it for a long time.

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(Pause in which the blogger wonders what inner journey that longing and arrival correlates to.)

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Turns out it takes years to gear up for the river with a Vanagon era (and size) boat. But while I’ve been busy with poems, someone around here had a vision and spent weeks repairing and preparing, arranging permits, amassing an impressive collection of straps, and learning to drive the boat.

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We skipped the dinosaur footprint, the side hikes. Despite my pre-launch jitters, nobody was bitten by snakes, or swept away by the river. More and more, I need to choose trust in the goodness of the world over my fear of what harm it could bring. Running this river was like learning to float for the first time. I was surprised at how much work it takes to stop working and how good it feels when you do.

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Sometimes, we travel the farthest when not moving.

Sweet summer drifting, friends. Let go while you can!

      ::

Ps: A couple of my poems landed on sweet shores and are part of a folio, “Sacred Americas,” from Anomaly (formerly Drunken Boat).  The editor writes, “And don’t you know that the world has been remade, again and again?…This remaking is what I call the sacred.” These poems are medicine for our times.

 

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Poem Roundup

It’s time for turning ground and putting in seeds, true, but also a moment when seeds I planted long ago are seeing the light of day for the first time. Poetry is like that–sort of a slow food for the literary. I need to be better about making sure the poems that make it into print and e-print find their readers, so here is a little farm stand for you to browse.

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A poem for the spring planting season was published yesterday by Heron Tree, my favorite place to find a single, beautiful poem each week.

I am grateful to The Wayfarer for creating such a perfect home for three of my poems in their spring issue. They aren’t available online, but I will lend you my copy anytime, friends. It is a beautifully crafted journal that I savored cover to cover.

Yellow Warbler, was published by Written River and is similarly themed along spring lines.

Back in early winter, three of my  poems –two correspondences and a canticle–appeared in Dark Matter Women Witnessing’s issue on kinship. Let me just say that you know you are reading a Kyce poem if it has a fruit tree or river in it.

My biggest harvest of all is just days–and a craft talk and public reading–away. On Saturday I’ll graduate from the Institute of American Indian Arts with an MFA in poetry. Here’s an outtake from my thesis introduction:

The poems in Understory explore what it means to inhabit a particular landscape at a time of enormous disruption. They are a correspondence with the seasons, both those in the natural world, as well as inner cycles of renewal and loss. Throughout, domestic themes of body, garden, and home point quietly toward the unseen work of mapping identity and place. I think that, contrary to being insignificant, the correlation between those two relationships –self and place—are one of the means available to mitigate the damage of the Anthropocene. My work is a defense and praise of this, and an attempt to further understand and embody it. These poems are a listening that writes my speaker and I back into an ecological language of place.

Enjoy the poems, friends, and may you live your own in springtime’s open arms.

Small reconciliation with stillness

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One name for the red-belly and white-speckle wings busy in the un-blooming lilac is rufous sided towhee, and once I know that,they appear outside the bank in parking lot

shrubbery, underfoot along the river, ruffling pine needles as we climb Atalaya and talk loudly all through the ponderosas

about the discovery that while it is amazing that a woman can clean house and write poems and till soil by hand all in the same hour,

her children are waiting for her to sit still enough to hold them.

All Through October

Everyone pours into the hills.

Where the pine-trunk bends into a perfect bridge across the stream, Maida says, I’ll walk with my eyes closed, just hold my hand and tell me every step of what is coming.

IMG_2892I make her a crown by folding salmon berry leaves in half, enclosing the previous leaf inside the next, and piercing the stem through both. I miss the friend who taught me how.

The night we pressed apples, everyone found a rhythm: washing apples, tossing apples into the hopper, turning the hopper, pressing the mash, bottling the cider.

The high green turned to gold. Under the aspens where he sings, we pull our woven shawls tighter.

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I’m sad because it’s autumn, and good to grieve at least a few days of the year. I cannot keep waiting for rain, or even clouds, to stay in.

There are still crickets pulsing in the darkness, there are still apples ripening on the tree. There are so many good places to be.

Open Country

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It was the longing for this light that pulled us out of the house, away from the pots of stewing apples, away from the fruit flies and cobwebs, away from the newly resumed life of school and work: lunches to make, lessons to plan, all those papers and poems, all those books to annotate and understand.

Underline this, the Caldera cries. Mark it in your body. Sail your net into this open country, and carry it home: Birds rising and falling across the windblown grass. A fat coyote circling the prairie dogs. Cloud flight and shadows. That long afternoon light we suppered in. That we feasted on.

Since We Left Off

:: An almanac of the last months, in images and poem fragments ::

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The name of my child is sweet berry on thorn bush.

Red earth falling on the mountain road winding between contentment and quaking hunger.

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The first bluster of snow makes you think of the woman you love born in the far north.

How the skein of silk thread pulled between her fingertips stretches and breaks as she leans in 
and out of tenderness.

Watch how her palms rise, supplicant to the falling sky, how they fill like dark branches with snow, while on the ridge clouds billow and bleed, sweep and flurry.

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Deep under the frozen surface I call doubt, the water teems.

Fertile muck, and it’s all I can do to remember that if I held each seed to the light it wouldn’t be in the dark where it belongs.

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Across the thick planks of the table, wheat berries scatter like so many loaves of unbaked bread.

I’ve been calling and calling you to eat, and I wish you would listen, because life did not open the door from your mother’s womb so you would be hungry.

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Yes that is spring hatching between your hands. The high trees full of singing. The world whispering soften, lean back.

Do not speak a little longer.

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Look up!

That warm light is the sun that loves you. This feast is the one you wrote the recipe for long, long ago.

Hold your cup of trembled tea, grown and cut and scalding good.

Miracles for the Noticing

 

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It is a little excessively exuberant to include my 7 year old’s first ever taste of vegetable soup on the list of miracles, so instead I will call it the miracle of the human being unfolding, the soul being revealed and maturing, of the incredible way we grow into ourselves. Perhaps that is the same work humanity is busy with in these tumultuous days…

The miracle of fighting for what is right. Every day, the world is filled with people working for justice and peace and the earth. I know what happened in Paris would not have been possible without the activists from every part of the world rising up together. I know that my work is to stay connected to hope through my hands and heart and doing.

The miracle of connection and the transmission of insight. Be it with my parents around the Sunday dinner table, wayfaring strangers invited in to our home (and who immortalized us on instagram here), a circle of women lighting candles in the darkness, or a phone call with a mentor, I find my way to myself through these relationships.

The miracle of songs that bring light and beauty into the heart’s chamber. My husband making a song from a poem, children singing in a Santa Lucia processional, these freely given Advent songs that bring fresh life into old melodies and truths.

The miracle of the quiet day. Like the snowday this week when the house was swept, the children busy playing with old ornaments, and I realized there was nothing more to do but sit down and spend the next three hours writing a handful of cards to people I love. No pressure, no rush, no distraction. Oh sweet quiet.

At least twice this week I’ve missed a walk, but at the end of the snowstorm, I covered the ridge with boot prints. And that was miracle enough for me. 

Warmth and Light Be Yours!

K

 

 

What happens at home, plus a poem finds a home

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Home days. A weekend of sweet home days at last. One of the downsides of living in a place where it is always impossibly beautiful out is that the soul of the introverted homebody grows desperate for a rainy day to take shelter in. Let’s just say one or two raindrops fell this weekend, and I am happy.

These pictures are from Friday when we wisely rode the wave of the week into the aspens, and though I’ve felt the longing for more “fall” all weekend, I’m remembering her other faces. There is a backlog of homey things to do: sweeping down cobwebs, harvesting from the garden, making soup, canning applesauce, reading all morning in the orange chair by the window while the clouds move across the window, teacup in hand. My daughters have played for hours on end as if the only thing they need in this world is one another and time and space to themselves.

Towards evening on Saturday we went out the door for a walk up the ridge. Once, my husband and I walked there every single evening. We walked it before kids, while pregnant, with one baby, then two. Lately, we’ve slowed way down. Our family walks these days tend to turn towards the river, at the other end of our street, or up into the mountains for “real” hikes, but the river has been dry since August, and sometimes the mountains are another country we are too tired to journey to. And so we went up the ridge. “Why don’t we do this more often?” the man of the place asked. “It’s the kind of thing we do when we aren’t doing anything else,” I said. “We shouldn’t do anything else more often,” he said. From the ridge we saw our house, our city, the mountainside swathed in golden hues. It is the best place I know to really see what it is we call home.

In other news from the homefront, I am grateful to have a poem in the fall issue of Taproot. What an honor, and what a pleasure to have my lines accompanied by a gorgeous image by Kristen Johns. I kept marveling at how perfect an illustration they found for my poem until I learned it was custom made. Pretty classy, Taproot! Thank you for sharing the warmth of our candlemaking joy.

From the Mountaintop

And yet another sign of the season’s changing: the blogger returns to her post.Hello again, Dear Readers.

My husband and I went backpacking together over the weekend, and climbed Baldy while we were at it. Last time we took our packs into the wilderness, we arrived home to discover a baby was on the way, and began an entirely new journey into the wilds of family life. So much was given up, so much was gained. Seven years of mothering and I am a wholly different person–face and body softened, spirit strong, heart humble and grateful.

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What isn’t climbing a mountain analagous to, I wonder? Marriage and mothering, to be sure. Also, coming to know ourselves, the changing shape of our beliefs, our identity, our work in the world. So much slowing way down for the steepest ascents. Resting & letting go, sure, but always the steady task of putting one foot in front of the other. And somehow, the path we walk–and the way we walk it–becomes who we are.

DSCN0852“A second grade child is like a butterfly who has just emerged from the hard imprisoning chrysalis and sits upon the leaf waiting expectantly for those glorious new wings to dry and strengthen. He is truly poised for flight.” I came across these words here, and they describe my eldest daughter perfectly. They also describe me these days. I’m not just climbing mountains lately, I’m seeing some long held dreams begin to materialize. This summer I started a low residency MFA program in poetry at The Institute of American Indian Arts, and later this month I begin teaching parent/child classes at Santa Fe Waldorf School.

DSCN0865It is an exciting season of renewal and discovery. And as ever, my main work seems to be growing still enough to feel the earth spin.

Be you high or low, be well!

Postcard from the Greening Desert

DSCN0592DSCN0591May was one long rainstorm here, proving that 200 times the normal rainfall isn’t zero after all, but brimfull cisterns and water rushing down rivers and streams and acequias. For weeks folks kept asking each other “Are we still in New Mexico?” but a friend returning from New England said we could stop worrying: this was indeed still the desert. Well Amen to that.

I am delighted to once again be carrying buckets of dishwater out to the garden, thought it is nice to see springtime snowpack on the mountains instead of fires. We make our way each evening to the river and the willows, but never have a mosquito interrupt dinner under the apple tree. A happy medium, indeed.

A friend moved to the mountains where she has this acequia running past her house. It feels vaguely sinful, all that green right out the door, but I couldn’t help but recite Wendell Berry on the log crossing:

The god I have always expected
to appear at the wood’s edge, beckoning,
I have always expected to be
a great relisher of this world, it’s good
grown immortal in his mind.

In town, where our green belts are slightly less orgiastic and school is letting out for the summer, I think of my friend and her family in the mountains often. What would Katie do? I wonder to myself, thinking of her contentment to quietly spend the days tending her home, watching her children play, welcoming visitors.The same things that content me, but are easy enough to toss into the rushing current of life. I keep the calendar as free as I can, and savor this high season in which life is less about doing, and more about relishing.

Rather than being carried away by the figurative runoff, I want our roots to be well-watered, our leafy crowns reaching to the sun. Moored to the unfolding days, to our unfolding lives that blossom in the quiet garden.