Category: Poetry

We had an offer in on the Poe House, but it was countered and we decided not to counter again.  This was sort of a last ditch effort to find a house in Charlotte.  It’s now time for a break while we collect our thoughts, spend some time back home in Michigan and determine our course.  I wish things were easier right now, but nothing is easy in this economy, so why bother feeling down about it?  I’m going to have to buy another copy of the Grapes of Wrath, since my own copy is buried in some warehouse back home.  We (us, our country) are nowhere near the edge of turmoil experienced by those who survived the Depression or are we?  Is it simply that our poor are better hidden in the shadows cast off corporate buildings?  

I’m researching an ancestor of mine (or piggybacking off the research of my step-father), McDonald Clarke- known by many as “The Mad Poet” and revered for his eccentricities and his innocence.  He often found himself poor and alone, but many, including the best poets of his day, marveled at his uncanny ability to smile in the face of cruelty, to find decency in anyone and to seek out the stars through a large hole in his attic-room roof, rather than suffer the misery of defeat of being poor.  In his poem, Humility, Clarke writes,

“Do you call me poor, you slugger? // Won’t Posterity let me hug her, // And won’t she hug me back again? // Isn’t my pen // The Sceptre of Eternity, to wave //  Over Earth’s grave?”

And we are by no means poor, but we feel the pinch and empathetically are suffering with the worst off for we know these are families not unlike our own.  And because we have had to worry at times in our own lives about from where our next meal might come.  

The beauty in these times is that they are less superficial.  Sincerity seems to flow in all art, music, from the pen.  These are times when we build strong foundations – not of brick and mortar, but of friendships that will lead us through the hard times.  

“By calling me poor, you slugger,

Psho!  Psho!

I’m sure I don’t feel so –

So I should think

From this hurricane of ink.”  -MC


For the last few days I’ve noticed my dog has been anxious.  Today, I’ve come to realize why.  She’s been trying to teach me something and I haven’t been a very receptive until now.

Today I learned that life is all about learning to come to terms with the simple fact that we are not at the probable center of the universe; that we are not isolated matter; that we are more than the sole survivor of our own enlightenment.  Today I realized life isn’t about proving yourself to others; it’s about recognizing yourself in them and allowing yourself the freedom to change and grow.  Today I learned anxiousness can be cured.  And today I learned to look past the issues to see the real person – and I forgave myself that I don’t always like what I see.  

Today I learned to listen to those who love me most and to trust my own interpretations of this wild and crazy world.  Thanks Celli, friend.

In addition to the Carolina house, we’re considering an old farmhouse a little closer to Charlotte (still a 40-min commute).  It’s a neat house with a slate roof and a fireplace in every room along with some of the worst wallpaper of the century (and cats- lots of cats).  The house comes with 2.76 acres and some old out-buildings, nut trees, peach and apple trees and road frontage named for the farmstead.  

Asking price is well below recent appraisal and the house seems very solid, but I didn’t get the same warm-fuzzies I get with the Carolina Ave. house.  I think mostly, it’s the presence of the people and the wallpaper detracting from the original structure. I’d show you additional photos, but the rooms were in a very messy state.  The house has been updated and is “move-in ready,” as they say.  Even our youngest has been spouting real estate lingo:  “Location, location, location,” she repeated over and over again last night. 

For photos, please visit our flickr site


May 30, 2008

Beneath our fourth-floor-flat; somewhere on the sidewalk or in a nest fitted into the canopy of some tree, or maybe over the top of a gutter; I hear a mockingbird chic crying.  Well into the afternoon he or she utters peep after tiny peep into the thick air until you learn to ignore it as you might ignore the fire alarm with a low battery:  Beep…  beep.

Into the night, the chirping continues, though by this time I am only loosely aware of the sound emanating from some poor hapless creature outside my window.  It isn’t until after midnight, when my family is sleeping and the soothing fan is oscillating from its post across the room that I rediscover the little peeper in my head. 

“Peep,” it calls out; lonely.  “Peep,” it says, “I’m hungry.”  As the night wears on it begins to think, “Peep,”  “Come on guys; this isn’t funny.”  Where are you?  The little bird has been abandoned.  I consider getting up to investigate- but I am tired and my youngest child has a fever and has spent the day in the ER, so I wait it out.  Maybe the little bird will go to sleep. 

After midnight:  Peep, peep.  Peep.  Peep.  “Help me, I’m all alone!”  Poor bird.  I should get up and help it.  I am walking into the heat of the southern early summer, through the heavy fire door of my fourth-floor flat, down cement halls, barefoot and cautiously aware of my vulnerability.   I float into the smoky elevator that quacks at every floor and out through the gated door where I stand looking up at my darkened windows feeling very alone in the world.  Peep, I think to myself, peep.

“Peep” the bird cries and awakens me to the fact that I am only standing at an open window four protected floors above him.  Peep, I cry out inside.  


Our week back in Elk Rapids, MI afforded me some time for reflection on all of the recent changes in our lives. We spent the majority of our time near the water; either on East Bay or Lake Michigan, but I made it a point to visit the chain and made a special visit to the old willow whose boughs sweep the currents of Elk River.  We used to climb out onto limbs as thick as barrels over the water to watch fish make their struggles toward the falls.  Treasures found along the shore were tucked safely beneath the tangled roots born bare by sand.  I climbed Johnny Rock and took photos of each of the girls on the early day’s swimmer’s stone; once a goal for swimmers near the newly erected harbor: The goal, uprooted; now a monument. 

Despite a lingering chill in the air, something in the metered pulse of the waves sliding up against sand only to be swept back again brought me into the moment and gave me time to center.  It was clear all at once I have not felt centered for some time in Charlotte.  It’s also clear I’ll need to find some way of “chilling out” now that I’m back in the city.  

It is strange returning home after a long absence, but I haven’t been away very long.  For me, this trip was about saying goodbye and reveling in the emotion unveiled through the process of letting go.  It was about replacing my grief for losing money on our house with gratitude we weren’t one of the dozen new foreclosures in the paper each day.  And about recognizing my ability to travel cross-country in good time with little worry.  This trip also reminded me that no amount of distance can squelch a good friendship.  And no matter how mature we become, we can still wade ankle-deep in Lake Michigan, jump waves tracing lines in the sand, and climb trees.  

On my way home to Charlotte, I occasionally glanced back in the rearview mirror at the thin horizon and worried about when I would return, but mostly my eyes were trained forward on the adventurous mountains ahead, and on the road immediately before me.  When I was a child, it was the road that moved as our car stood still, but yesterday, I accelerated past those reservations I’ve had about moving forward in this new life.  Despite warnings about dangerous cross-winds and steep grades, I was determined to make this trip work- determined not only to reach the destination, but as the saying goes, to enjoy the journey. 

And now for some theme-appropriate Walt Whitman: 

O living always, always dying!

O the burials of me, past and present!

O me, while I stride ahead, material visible, imperious as ever!

O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not – I am content; )

O to disengage myself from those corpses of me which I turn and look at where I cast them!

To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind!

Please click photos to link to flickr photos of our travels.



I spotted this tiny bundle of green on a brick patio outside my apartment building last night and limped up four flights of stairs to fetch my camera. It reminds me of my grandmother and her namesake, Hope. It was a name I used to think sounded too old. And yet in the last couple of years I’ve learned that the name, as tiny and seemingly insignificant as the small bouquet of clover, holds a meaning that is unrivaled by anything; word or otherwise. Love is important, patient, kind, but there are times when only hope can persuade us to move forward.

When I saw these leaves unfurling out from a barren earth, I related. My own family is enshrined in a concrete palace where helicopters, leaving the nearby hospital, cast long, pulsing shadows on the ground below and where birds hover, wings beating against our windows, finding no place to land. And yet, here we are, gathered together again stretching our imaginations to fit this foreign surrounding; hoping we made the right decision.

It seems each day we’re down here in the midst of all these people, in a sea of swirling cars and trains, our leaves broaden, our path widens and the sun, no matter the shadows cast, is always somewhere overhead.

I missed the funeral, but thought of this poem and decided to post the Housman poem for Ryan.  He won every CC meet following his third in HS and continued to impress us with his determination and ability well into his professional career.  

A.E. Housman: To an athlete dying young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder high-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It whithers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echos fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

There’s something fragile about a Petoskey stone:
The delicate web of fossilized cells.
And yet it appears all at once unbreakable.

We collected stones along the beach and each time someone came across the beloved Pestoskey, excited chatter filled the spaces between us. It was an unintended treasure hunt. I sometimes feel sad so many stones are being lifted from the water, to be tumbled and polished and laid to rest on some dusty mantle somewhere. But I am reminded this is part of the ancient cycle: The current of time.

I feel honored to have made the acquaintance of a young man with terminal brain cancer. He reminds me of that delicate stone; enduring the rough tides, held together by the thin thread of life and the web of support all around. He seems unbreakable at his most vulnerable and has himself become a treasure to those who have the opportunity to get to know him. He is also a part of the unbreakable cycle.

Erick’s family, the girls, Erick and I stayed up all night and talked about the universe and our places within it. We attended a funeral at noon for a cousin out on Old Mission and later I worked with Liz and Bucka (Hoartie). I watched her movements around the round pen and touched the soft mane made up of gold, grey, white and red. I saw something of eternity in those uniform swoops and swirls.

While the minister preached about God, a hawk called out twice. For some, God is present in the words of the ordained. For others, God is present in the voice of a winged-being, a horse or a small stone sifted out of many, to be held and honored forevermore.



I was leaping joyously through the day

When my joy was stolen suddenly

Like the morning I ran down the hall to band class

And a bully shot his leg out to catch my legs

My knees still ache on cold days.

Yesterday I ran to the mailbox with the dogs

into the wind, I could fly

and then some unseen force swept through me

my arms grew weak and my head ached

I could not stand.

In a quiet room with a strange doctor

I cried like I cried that day

when the bully caught both my legs midstride

stole away that freedom to move forward


It took some time for me to forget

that little boy and his cruel act

before I could run freely again

and I suppose this is a bit like that

when I wake each morning uncertain

of whether today I will walk or run

or lie down ducking anxiety.

At the hospital I watched the tickertape strip

curl into a pile of rythmic spikes and dips

on the sterile floor

My heart lay there with those echos of each beat

Treading water

We both waited to see whether we’d sink or swim.

More blood work

this disease is like a vampire sucking the life from me

and yet I can’t see it to run from it

like the days that followed the bully stepping out of the shadows

I’ll move forward cautiously for a while.

S. Tengelitsch 6/20/2007

The girls will be building a cherry guild at the center of our garden. From there we will build upon the principles of permaculture, studying the ecology of this new garden space as it evolves and expands into others.

We will watch it grow on the phisical and spiritual planes; a place where children and anscestors might gather and play. The whisper of old ways blending with the strong voice of intention, of potentionality in the soil and in the people who work to return it to health.

At its center, the sweet cherry tree will grow upward and outward, stretching and relaxing, nestled comfortably in its native environment. In place of pesticides, we’ll welcome insects (90% are beneficial or beneign and are all to happy to munch on true “pests” given the opportunity) and birds who will rest on branches, fertilizing the earth, eating insects (good or bad) and sharing in the joy of the fruit.

My natural ‘herbacides’ are garlic, daffodils, chives, onions,  etc. who will fill in the spaces where “weeds” might grow otherwise.  And our fertilizer will come from the collective clippings of comfry, chicory, sweet peas, dill, fennel, bee balm, Jerusalem artichoke, sweet vetch and red clover.

And in the end we will celebrate the fruit and the seed within as more than the potential for another cherry tree.  We will celebrate the hope it represents, wrapped carefully in its red cocoon, sparkling in sunlight with an unspoken wisdom like the sparkle in the farmer’s eye as he or she discovers this magic for themselves.

I once commented that I regretted not knowing these things earlier in my life, but an older, seasoned farmer lamented the same and consoled me in my youth that the path is sometimes short and straight or long and winding.  On the shorter path we might turn around and bring others along, and with the longer path there is much to see and learn.  With both we are fortunate to have reached something akin to destination.  And in my youth, I might be the one to share with my children this wisdom.  I might have the opportunity to pluck the first ripe cherry from the tree and present it to them as a gift that will last generations.

Blessings and Balance, Balance and Blessings, For from Balance comes all Blessings.