Air Hugs

My mailman delivers my mail, mows my lawn and quietly leaves unexpected gifts at the neighbors’ houses…He knows everyone by name and most of their personal business…He gives advice for pruning shrubs and getting rid of ants…he gave “air hugs” long before we heard about a pandemic and is one the many reasons I enjoy living in a small town. This is a poem for him.

Sweet Summer surprise

Tomatoes left on door step

Gardens grow good friends



it is HOT
and September
and nothing makes sense
But iced tea
and rhubarb pie

Growing up in Colorado, we had a garden of strawbwerries and rhubarb. Since it was arid where we lived on the eastern side of Pikes Peak, we couldn’t grow anything in our backyard except the one fruit and one vegetable. (According to Michigan University, rhubarb is a veggie.) Because it was so dry in the Summer, the grass often gave up the ghost, making room for weeds to grow. Those were the times we ate dandelion greens in place of canned spinach. Neither was tolerable to my childish palate unless a promise of pie preceded the meal.

When the neighbor kids came over on skin blistering days, we drank sugarless iced tea and crowded in front of our one window fan. On the good days, there was pie. Somedays were too hot to be cooled off merely with dry air blown over our sunburned bodies so Mom taught us a trick that she learned growing up in southwestern Kansas during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. She soaked a towel in cold water and draped it over the makeshift air conditioner. It was enough to cool us off while she reminisced about the times she only had potatoes to eat and other children made fun of her for having one dress to wear everyday to school. We begged for more stories about a distant time and place so different from our own, but it was time for us to finish our snack, she would say, before leaving us alone again. We sipped our iced tea and ate our treasured treat with renewed sense of gratitude and energy to play again.

Everyone who was lucky enough to taste it, declared Mother made the best rhubarb pie. Her secret was tapioca instead of cornstarch for thickening the sauce and lard and vinegar for making the flaky crust. She didn’t put any strawberries in it. She didn’t believe in “doctoring” something that was already perfect. Strawberries were saved for freezing and for eating later in Winter.

Many years later, after I had moved to Seattle and was recuperating from a painful operation, Mother along with my sisters, took time out of their busy lives to travel up to the Great Northwest to help me. I was never considered a spoiled child growing up, but that week I felt very special.

I could barely eat and keep anything in my stomach and I was getting weaker each day. My mother asked what she could do to make me feel better. I knew the perfect medicine. Unsweetened iced tea and rhubarb pie, please. Yours, of course. None of that store-bought-strawberry-doctored pie for me. Anything other than Mom’s rhubarb pie would simply be nonsense.

Waiting for Autumn

 She chooses to remember that Sun was kind
when he whispered morning melodies
Fed her green smoothies
and avocado toast
Smiled and ­­­­­told her to hang on
a better day was dawning

The ritual continued day and night
Sunshine and young Leaf played games on neighbors' shadows
until Moon chased Sun from the branches
Sun always managed to find a purple mountain to hide behind
While Leaf played hide and seek with Moon
Sun was a patient and gentle suitor
He knew he could court his Precious One again in the morning dew
But now Leaf's skin is cracked and prematurely wrinkled
All because Summer ravaged her imagined rival
After hearing the Four Winds taunt
Leaf's boundless beauty could not be matched nor denied

Summer was relentless this year
With her
Southern whiskey breath
and moldy
pursed lips
Jealousy joined Summer and together
they overpowered the youngling and others like her
Leaf turned to catch a glimpse of an old friend
Who decided long ago to mock Fate
Who drifted down a pitiless path
With no one to comfort him
No one to dry his tears
Helplessly, Leaf bounced down a cracked sidewalk
that scratched and discolored her cheeks
Why did this happen to such an innocent part of creation
Who merely longed to dance and twirl and laugh
with Grandfather Tree
Who closed his eyes for just a moment and lost his hold on her

If she had a little more time, she thought
She could say good-bye to those who loved her for a Season
It's too early
Not even October, she cried
So unfair  

Leaf landed on a stranger's lawn
Her tired fingers released her hold
on the brittle dry grass
She resigned to the idea
that this was her final resting place
Leaf will be content until she sees her Beloved Autumn
Whom she never met but heard stories about
How he cools the brow of Nature's broken ones
with his misty kisses
And takes them to his sanctuary
Specially prepared for those who trust him
There Springs and Waterfalls sing in harmony
Old things are made new
And Love and memories grow new gardens
In due Season