A Bear, Tomatoes, and an Exercise in Resisting in Metaphor


A black bear is wandering our small city. Braving the busy main roads, trotting down quiet side streets and into little backyards, finding temporary refuge in the marshes and sparse woods. Two days ago, he was across from my mother’s house, moving so stealthily through the neighbor’s yard, he didn’t even disturb the laundry on the line. He took the beach route to our side of town, must’ve walked right past our house to get to the tennis courts by my dad’s where he was last photographed. He’s a young male black bear, alone, and most certainly lost. I wish he’d stop by our backyard and rest awhile in an Adirondack chair. I’d bring him a stack of toast with butter and jam and a drink of cool water, walk him over to a good fishing spot where the woods meet the marsh, and invite him back when the tomatoes are ripe.

Days of rain kept me from the garden. When the sun finally returned, I went out to weed and see if it was too late to plant cucumbers only to discover there wasn’t an inch of space. The garden is wild with tomato plants, volunteers from last summer. I have only a little tending to do: some transplanting to reduce crowding, a bit of weeding and watering. Sometimes the things we create take on a life of their own. Some growth comes not with labor but with ease.

Before I get metaphorical and compare gardening to writing, I want to pour my Marie Howe collection of observations on the table. If you decided to play along, I hope you’ll leave me a few (or a whole bunch) of yours.

A man, large and bald with thick glasses, sweeps the cafeteria floor near the table where I sit writing, looks at me and asks, “How do you like world war three?”

The boy with the missing front tooth and greasy hair always wears the same grey-brown clothes and sits alone, but at least he has a phone, and today talks briefly–so briefly–to a girl sitting nearby.

The copy machine in the teacher’s room whirs and chugs and spits so loudly, I can practice my poem in full voice without anyone hearing.

My daughter runs across the wet, green grass through the sprinkler and shouts, “Drink, mommy, drink!” I bend down and lower my face to the spray, catching the cold metallic-tasting water that feels somewhere between a tickle and a sting. I shriek with laughter.

Thin clouds gauze over the blue sky. We count two lobster boats, one barge, four sea gulls. Charles Island in the distance.

Tiny 3-year-old feet with chipped red nail polish run through the sand.

I press my nose to the back of my daughter’s head and breathe deep the scent of salt air, sunscreen, and a sweetness that belongs only to her.

The tides comes in and we watch the seaweed–green, brown, red–dance around our ankles.

Evening on the front porch. The swish-swash of the swamp maples waving in the wind. The tink-tonk of the bamboo chime.

The full moon casts a glow over the rippling water. I sit in the wet sand and watch.




Ode to April: 88/365

I am impatient for leaves on the maple. I resent the forsythia for being the only bright color in the yard. April, the month of almost-there.

But the birds are singing in the stark branches. And it’s warm enough in the sun.

Also, I lied about there only being forsythia. A few dandelions and daffodils stretch up determined and hardy. There’s the creeping phlox and a few grape hyacinth whose purple bells are quickly plucked and shredded by little toddler hands.

The cats are happy explorers in the brambles out back.

We’ve had to keep our Easter butterflies longer than usual because of the cool weather. Today seemed like the right day to release them. One butterfly stayed for a bit, sunning himself. And Isabella spoke to him, a sweet farewell.

Yellow Rain Slicker: 84/365


It’s taken me nearly forty years to realize that God invented yellow rain slickers not least of all so that we may create our own sunshine on rainy days.

Change of Season: 64/365

When the season changes, I start to rearrange little things around the house. Yesterday I took down all the wall art in the living room. Ahhh, goodbye visual noise. I swept almost everything from the mantel. And during dinner, I began to impulsively paint a mirror frame white.

I can’t wait for open windows, daffodils, and leaves on the trees.

In Search of Energy: 55/365

You know those people who only require six hours of sleep? I’m not one of them. I need a full eight, but I’ll take seven hours if I can get them. If.

I knew I was doomed last night when I stayed up writing until 11:00 pm. Daylight Savings steals that one little hour and my toddler’s circadian rhythm reverts to newborn, waking again and again and again throughout the night, and then rising bright and bouncy at 5:30am.

I am searching for energy everywhere, currently in this giant mug of coffee. But I’m looking at the real energy thieves: lack of exercise, glass of wine, sugar, late bed time. Recently, I’ve taken a serious assessment because I’m desperate for an energy boost. A month ago, I decided a glass or two of wine on the weekends wasn’t worth it and I cut it out completely. I’ve been running five days a week for well over a year. I maintain an organic, no-packaged-food, fruit-and-veggie-rich diet. But I’ve let sugar creep back in, an occasional sweet. Beginning today, I’m eliminating sugar. And I’m going to bed by 10:00 pm. Writing it down seems important.

I’ve noticed that one of the benefits of daily writing is increased mindfulness. It strengthens the ability to consistently pay attention.

If anyone out there has any natural energy-boosting tricks up their sleeves, let me know. As for Daylight Savings and the lost hour, it’s still well worth that extra hour of evening light. Spring is almost here!

Garden: 42/365

Sunshine driving the harsh chill from the air, the birds making their announcements, the days stretching out just a little longer before the sun sinks purple and pink into the marsh. Almost Spring, teetering on the cusp. I imagine everything green again. And we start talking about the garden. Chris says, hot peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes. I say, sunflowers, lettuce, peas, beans, cucumbers, carrots. We have some raised beds out back that will need new soil. Should we do any container gardening? Let’s make bean poles from driftwood! I wish we’d been composting. We’ll need a wheelbarrow. I haven’t grown a garden in six years. I picture Isabella watering the plants with her tiny watering can, picking strawberries, biting into ripe tomatoes. Warm sunshine, warm dirt. I cannot wait to get my hands in the dirt.