Melancholy Moment

Written in Crestwood, Kentucky, 2012 at Green River Writers Retreat

Photo by Andrew Neel on

On that turbulent morning

Frost met Fog in Winter Ghost Wonderland.

They rose and swirled together

until Sister Sun parted those icy lovers

with yellow knife fingers

bathing them in warm rays

of golden hair.

Their dance over

their mingling done

Frost melted away

like ice on a country stove.

Fog came unglued


spreading until invisible.

I heard Kate’s voice

rich, deep as oak tree roots

singing of a homeplace

singing of coyotes at the door.

I smelled coffee

Grandpa’s kind

dark and strong

enough to stand a spoon in.

I thought of where I write

of grass by the pond

simple grass, tall grass

of juniper trees and their smell.

How they welcome me

even in winter and I wanted—

I wanted to go home again

to be with those who love me

to hear baby laughter

to see Rachel with a katydid jar

to hear little boy giggles

to feel slick Christmas paper

between my fingers

and to hear Daddy say,

“Sis, come on in here.

Let me tell you something.”

The Real

Photo by Anton Atanasov on

That traffic is an illusion

produced by human ingenuity

brilliant ignorance of true progress

a mesmerizing whoosh

hidden by trees.


on this creek

where water moves lazy-like

cicada songs are real

a snorting deer

tweeter tweeters

fading light flecks

over moss-covered rocks

brown earth banks

downed branches

a pale sky.

Life happens here

recycled and upcycled

older than time

younger than tomorrow

unending, unending, unending

let me be here

at the edge of nowhere

the heart of everywhere


this is real.

No More Good-byes

Photo by Viktor Lundberg on

People are always asking me, “How do you say good-bye in Cherokee?” or “How do you say good-bye in Tla Wilano?”

Here’s the thing.

In many/most Indigenous American cultures there is no concept of “good-bye,” not a temporary one and certainly not a long-term or permanent one.

Good-bye carries the notion that you will not be seeing that person again. In a culture where there is no concept of a permanent departure, there can be no good-byes. There is only, “until we meet again” and “and so,” which is an internally understood concept of continuation.

Imagine you are going on a trip. You make plans. You choose a vehicle, either you rent one, borrow one, or buy one. You choose the vehicle in which you will travel based on the kind of trip you’re taking. You certainly wouldn’t choose a mini-van to cross the ocean or a boat to travel over land!

Your journey begins the moment you get into your vehicle and it ends the moment you get out. However, when you exit the vehicle, YOU do not end. You do not cease to be. You continue to exist outside the vehicle. You’ve reached your destination. You are in some other place and your vehicle stays parked where you left it until some outside force moves it.

Now, think of our lives on earth as vehicles on a road. Think of our bodies as our vehicles. We are each driving our own custom-made vehicle that will only operate for its precise owner. You cannot drive another person’s vehicle and they cannot drive yours! Our vehicles come in all colors, shades, shapes, sizes, makes and models. These vehicles are not really us, but mere descriptors of us, just as our skin color, gender, size, etc., are NOT WHO WE ARE but merely descriptors of our vehicles.

We exist before we ever get in our vehicles and we exist after we get out of them!

It is only in this life that we have a beginning and an ending. Life within the confinements of time and physical space is a journey along the way in our never-ending existence and in order to travel through this life, we need a vehicle–a physical body through which we can interact with the physical world. So, we are spiritual beings traveling through a physical dimension. There’s an old gospel song that says, “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through….” How true that is! We stay here until our spirits are ready to leave, then we go home. Even when our minds compel us to stay, our spirits know when it’s time to go.

Here, there is a beginning and ending of the physical, because we are on a journey. We are spirit beings and even when we leave our earth-traveling vehicles or houses, we are not gone. We just get out of the car. We transcend. We are still very much here and very much alive.

Recently, I’ve seen several friends depart from this world and several more who almost departed and it just keeps coming to me that they are not gone, they have merely parked their cars and gotten out because they reached their destination–home, a place where only spirit travelers can go, a place where you have to park your car before you can enter.