Stockholm, November 2014

Saturday 1.

Now the dark begins
Gold and amber leaves turn brown
The days are colder


Sunday 2.

We stay inside our cubic caves,
Windows unshaded, yearning for sun.

A silent sigh, we turn from the past,
And soldier forward.

Summer slips away as a dream.
This becomes the real world.

Monday 3.

2010-11-04 Johannelund and Minneberg-0402This soggy day, with sunlight diffusing through the overcast,
Allows the dark- and damp-loving mosses to assert themselves
Between concrete tiles and on the trunks and limbs of trees.

Grounded leaves wait to be brushed away to the city’s compost.
Those still clinging weakly to the near-naked trees
Have lost their brilliant colors.

Dusk arrives four hours after noon.
Released school children and office workers
Won’t see the sun’s light until they return tomorrow.

Tuesday 4.
Cinnamon

Ancient spice, a gift for monarchs and gods.

The British, Dutch, and Portuguese fought over control of its sources, and over the peoples enslaved to grow and harvest it.

Now, five nations produce enough each year to provide, for a pittance, two tablespoons of the pungent powder for every person on earth.

What is its magic?

It enhances food and is a nourishment.
Its perfume encourages our appetites.
It is a medicine and a preventer of maladies.

The darker, colder months in Sweden are times for baking, with anise, cardamom, fennel, saffron… and cinnamon.  Along avenues and through subway passages, the odor of the spice wafts from countless konditori, fast food and convenience shops, and restaurants. The undeclared manna, food for the tongue and spirit is everywhere offered: kanelbulle—cinnamon buns.

Ancient sacrament
Once for just the high placed few
Now a common delight

 

Wednesday 5.
In the Library

Quietly seated people
Soft-sharp sounds of moving paper and feet
The occasional clearing of breathing passages

Heads down to read
Up to contemplate
Eyes closed to rest the brain or mind

Many thoughts are held within the uncountable pages
Impatiently reside in this vaulted room

Streams of consciousness begun uncounted years ago,
Engraved in words and held behind the dams of shelved books
Await release by exposure to the eye of a reader.

A cascade of old things made new
In the awakened senses of my silent companions
Surrounding me in the quiet library.

 

Thursday 6.
The first snow always surprises

Isn’t this too early?
Is it that cold already?
I haven’t got the right shoes!

The snow begins to melt on the pavement
While patches persist on colder ground
The day advances, warms, and the rain returns

The ground is dark
We begin to yearn for the bright and beautiful snows of winter

Friday 7.
Two Trees

On my accustomed Friday path
Leaving the health club
Toward the café for my usual
Two fried eggs and a small salad

About to turn left onto the walkway toward breakfast
I am stopped by the sight of the oaks to my right

Their now naked limbs soar skyward
Reaching toward the top of the tall building
Whose grounds they protect

I continue to… be with them
Care-lessly impeding foot traffic
While people struggle past me

I, two persons in one, stare at the trees
And watch the passersby
Don’t they see the trees?

 

Saturday 8.
A Visit to IKEA-Land

It’s the biggest IKEA in the world
Near King’s Curve, where the Cadillac of Gustav V
Skidded into a ditch, 1946

We watch the children moving in their childish ways
Through the circular levels and ramps and side passages
Surrounded by colors, shapes, and sizes

Calm Swedish parents keep quiet control
Especially in the long, but briskly moving line
For good, cheap food

Yes, it’s much like an amusement park
At least for the children

 

Sunday 9.
At The National Museum

Two hundred years of Russian art
Before, during, and after the political convulsions
And great wars

“Are we European?” some ask
“We are fierce and indomitable patriots”, others assert
“We have a soul as deep as the earth”
“Our people are strong and beautiful”
“Our landscapes are harsh yet spiritual”
“We have endured much suffering”
“Our leader is like a father to his country””
And, quietly, “We must break away from this oppression”

 

Monday 10.
In the Café

Seats for fifteen if we sat cheek by jowl
Or hip to hip, but never more than six or so

Most customers arrive breathily through the small door
Cold but not yet frigid air surrounding them
Order, collect their goods, and leave, hej då!

A sandwich saved for lunch
Kanelbulle for coffee at the desk
A fancy coffee to start one’s engine
Sipped while on the subway train

Unflappable Marie smiles,
Smoothly satisfying everyone’s expectations
And through all of this
Suddenly appear on my small table
Two fried eggs and delicious black coffee

My day has started
The muse hovers

Tuesday 11

2014-11-11 Chestnut on SvartviksvägenAs I walk from the subway to home in the pleasant air
I feel, at nine forty five, sudden warmth on my right shoulder
The sun has briefly broken though low clouds
To remind me of its daily, if diminishing presence

It hangs low above the horizon
Traversing the northern sky for eight hours
Shining directly into one’s eyes
When walking toward it on a clear day

Foregoing the bus, I walk westward
The city’s sweepers are waiting
For the trees to finish their annual work
In releasing their leaves to cover the damp walkways

The lower branches of the old chestnut
On the sloping lawn which overlooks the lake
Cling to their remaining foliage
Over a broad, brilliant carpet—
Golden-yellow and amber on vivid green

 

Wednesday 12.

Where do the birds go?
A swan flies quickly past
Only magpies remain

 

Thursday 13.
A Long Waiting
I am a long way from everyone in my previous life. My children, their partners, and my grandchildren are at least twenty hours distant by air in Alaska and California.

I have new family in Sweden—Eva, her children, and their partners—and new friends.

Frederic Buchanan Pape 1937 - 2015

Frederic Buchanan Pape
1937 – 2015

My oldest pal Fred, in the Great Central Valley of California, is available only through the post and during my visits to California. When we meet at my daughter’s home we are essentially present to each other, having said almost everything over our sixty years of friendship.

As fellow expatriates in Sweden have voiced, were it not for modern communications, we would feel severely isolated from family and friends in our home country.

Fred has been with me through three marriages, many jobs, countless addresses, and has seen my five children grow. His last letter arrived two months ago. Is he ill? Is he alive?

If he expires before I do, a great chunk of my life will disappear, just as when my sister died. I have no contact numbers for his neighbors and relatives.

The day darkens, the post arrives, no letter from Fred.

I sit at my desk
Recalling Maezumi Roshi’s:
“Expect nothing””

 

Friday 14. 

Ancient enjoyment
Carried through the centuries
Brown October ale

Saturday 15. 

The sky and the lake have the same color
Steel gray

The trees on the other side are not quite bare
But they look tired

Humans become gray and tired too
And keep on keeping on

Sunday 16.
De-Rosed

The nearest full-service recycle station is not too far, good for a huff-and-puff if one walks briskly. It follows the route of the Minneberg-Alvik bus, up a winding hill and around a corner just past the second bus stop from home. I always look forward to seeing the wild roses serving as a thick hedge between the pavement and grass below the tall apartment buildings, around the large curve in the road

Suddenly—where are they? My God, they’re gone! What’s there? Skinny, newly planted hedge bushes. Two rows of them, following the road’s curve, sticking up from newly spread planting soil. Not a rose bush in sight.

I have written poems about these roses–they were mine! How dare they?

Sigh.

The ground beside the curving path looks naked, even vulnerable, trembling in the damp cool air. No doubt the new hedges will grow to fill the great space occupied by the murdered roses and be less trouble to maintain.

I vow to remember the roses,
Their small, pink flowers,
And their red and orange autumnal hips

Monday 17.
Men at Work

1379297_10152600221319773_2339787193028668158_nI left the health club feeling righteous from my exercise and atoned for a one kilogram gain over the weekend. I was in a relaxed, open mode, not hungry enough to hurry to the café, and looked up and into the large windows of a new office building opposite. I was struck by the immensity of the offices inside the building, but occupied by few people.

I stopped to gaze at two of the well-lighted tiers, windows uncovered, one large office on each tier, two desks placed near the windows, again each tier. And one man each desk, one facing one, with two computer screens between them, impeding their view of each other as they stared straight ahead.

I guessed they were working, But what work? Processing information? Old stuff, new stuff? Writing code?

I quit looking for ideas at this point, because… I saw all the space inside the expensive structure given over to four men, their desks, and desktop computers. I could not reconcile the lavish use of physical resources for work that could be done at home or in a modest office containing all four men, with a much lower ceiling and less expensive to heat. To whom is the large overhead expense of the offices being billed? And for what else could all that space be most efficiently used?. We are paying for this unnecessary expense, somehow.

And the building is ugly.

Harrumph! Time for breakfast.

 

Tuesday 18.
The Tao of Physics

I see the same words I read years ago
I understand more than I understood then
The years have been a good teacher

If I read this book ten years from now
Will I understand even more?
Or should I read another book?

Don’t seek an answer
Accept knowledge as it comes
The wise do not force

Wednesday 19.
I Saw the Sun Today

The sun arose just before eight
The thin clouds had dissipated to reveal it
After weeks of unbroken gray sky

I sat at my desk, looking out the window at this welcome sight.
A unexpected message caused me to leave the house for an errand.
Annoyed, I secured my computer and got properly dressed,
Just as I was beginning to wonder about today’s writing.

I gave in to the task
I ran
I didn’t need to run
My body wanted to run
I was my body was me
I accomplished the task
And ran back home
As the sun went behind the clouds

I sat at my desk
To wonder about today’s writing

 

Thursday 20.

one’s contradictions
should be carried carefully
like a basket of eggs

Friday 21.
About the Beggars

They’re from another country. They have invaded the streets and subways and my consciousness.

They squat in front of heavily trafficked stores and shopping malls, and inside the portals of subway stations. They cry, mostly, “Hey Hey”, with a sort of whine that grates, or they merely rattle the coins in their paper cups as a presumed inducement to put more noise in.

Some prostrate themselves on the walkways of highly-trafficked shopping and restaurant areas.

They have cardboard signs in Swedish or English or both, telling about their personal travails and displacements, and many children at home (but not in Sweden).

One cannot help but sympathize, but I cannot help but become disaffected when I see able bodied men begging. I admit to having automatic empathy for the younger and the older women, especially when obviously pregnant—I have given money to a few.

Why do I not, can I not, ignore them and their piteous glances?

They have learned their art well.

 

Saturday 22.
Local Artists Display Their Work

What if my writings were posted, page by page on a wall for passersby to see? I would stand back, silently, hoping to be unobtrusive while praying to the gods and muses:

Please stop
Please read my words
Please like them
Please tell me
And, maybe, maybe, buy some?

I imagine this is what these many artists experience, person by person, couple by couple passing by, not quite directly glancing, trying not to look too interested so as not to encourage unwanted attention by the artist, hovering, discreetly, but still…

I toured the offerings slowly, like a pasha surveying his universe:

Still Life Theresa LeBlanc

Still Life
Theresa LeBlanc

That’s kitsch
Too busy
Interesting, but don’t stop
Strange
Lots of butts and breasts, hmm
Garish
Amateurish
Nice landscapes, talented
Enh

I was glad to see my friend’s aquarelle still lifes, colorful and direct.

And I was glad my writings aren’t posted for people to casually pass-by.

 

Sunday 23.
Mozart’s Requiem at Sofia Kyrka

He, touched by the transcendental,
Transformed his perceptions into notations
Which flow through musicians
Into the sensibilities of ordinary humans
Now made holy

 

Monday 24.

strong winds this morning
clearing weak twigs and branches
for new leaves next spring

 

Tuesday 25.
The Tao of Physics II

I am a local manifestation
Of the universal quantum field
Not yet ready to dissolve
And return to the void

Still busy, inducing other manifestations
Which may remain un-dissolved
Beyond my time upon the stage
To give the illusion that “I” existed

Wednesday 26.

Fog over the lake this morning
Evoking San Francisco
And the fog horns of the Golden Gate

First childhood memories
All so far away

 

Thursday 27.

All this day, with an interruption to visit a friend, I listened to some works of Olivier Messiaen:

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ
20 Contemplations of the Infant Jesus
Quartet for the end of time, for violin, cello, clarinet, and piano
Seven Haikus for piano and small orchestra
L’ascension: 4 meditations for orchestra

During the visit with my friend we talked, among other things, about the mystical, flowing nature of life and the Universe. But words cannot adequately describe this.

“He who knows does not speak
He who speaks does not know”
—Lao Tsu

But music is not speaking
Messiaen reveals the mystical

Stop speaking
Listen

 

Friday 28.

We celebrated Thanksgiving today with a friend and members of her family who have  roots in Sweden and the USA. The turkey and trimming were traditionally American.

The guests ranged in age from two months to around sixty, not counting my superannuated self.

The young people were compelling to me—their energy, their optimism, their beauty. And their quietly proud seniors.

I am thankful the world has these young people to carry on in the face of all the forces of disruption and decay this elder too much dwells upon.

the wheel of life turns
growth, decay, rest, and regrowth
no need to despair

2011-09-01 Heron-03Saturday 29.

A short day of light in late November
The sun glances off the light-colored buildings across the lake
Low clouds behind them defining the horizon

The light, persistent breeze sends confused ripples toward the western end,
But there are no sailboats to catch it.
No one sits at the bench on the pier below my window.

Eva begins to decorate the house for Christmas.

 Sunday 30.

Perhaps these writings
Will reveal some of
What is already known
But unstated
In each of us

Gray Day

I’m trying to make the best of it
After all, I’m alive and well
Despite the many years
This body has traveled

But there it is beyond the window
That there
This here
Gray day

We’re beyond the Spring Equinox
The days are longer than the nights
And daylight continues to gain
Each day

But days of gray are not sunny days
And the body
No the mind
No the whole being
Yearns for the warmth
Beyond the gray

But like I said
I’m trying to make the best of it

It ain’t easy

Upon returning to my Home Town

I was born in San Francisco and, during my long times away while living elsewhere, fondly remembered the murmurs and moans, the whistles and bells of foghorns in the morning, and the sight of beautiful Twin Peaks in the middle of the city. The Spanish called them the breasts of the Virgin.

I had been living and working in Los Angeles for four years where I met the woman who was to become my second wife. We married and I eventually got a job in the Great Central Valley, less than two hours by car from San Francisco.

I waited until we had settled in our new home before we made the trip to visit my home town. This was in 1975.

As we broached the final pass over the ranges of hills separating the Valley from the City, I eagerly scanned the horizon for my beloved Twin Peaks. I saw them and was stricken with horror!

Dwarfing the lovely hills was an immense tower standing rigid and ugly on nearby Mt. Sutro. It interrupted and obliterated the contours of the hills, overpowering them and diminishing them into insignificance.

I was in a state of disbelief, then anger and anguish for about a half hour before I realized the Great God Television had commanded the city fathers and mothers to erect this excrescence without regard to the beauty it destroyed.

I fell out of love with San Francisco, my only emotional anchor in this physical world, as I traveled away from it, back and away again, since age nine.

I no longer vest my emotions in any one geographical setting. It isn’t a particular hill or mountain, or forest or seashore I love, it is all of them.

But then, I have made an exception for that place named Alaska. I have allowed myself to believe it is too vast and too harsh for man to destroy its primitive beauty, at least in my lifetime.

I return to find
the old place now imperfect.
what did I expect?

The Oak’s Remains

One huge arm of the great oak
Broke off in a recent storm

The remains fill a great space along the trail
Even after the woodsman
Has cut and cleared the blocking branches

I feel like mourning and celebrating,
But with whom?

Perhaps with the calm spirit
Of the great, armless oak
Still standing watch over passersby

An Imaginary Hike in the Coastal Mountains of California

The first few hundred yards are the easiest and quickest. Civilization soon gets behind and below me in my initial haste. I change to the regular and slower, upward marching that gets my heart, legs and lungs in a pleasing synchronicity.

I adjust my senses for possible sudden signs of wildlife as the unfamiliar trail narrows and the foliage thickens. I am not afraid of the coyotes, tarantulas, and bobcats, but a harmless lizard will make a sudden move that says: snake!

The only dangerous plants are the shiny red and green bushes of poison oak and the needle-tipped leaves of the yucca plant, both easily discerned.

I enter a cloud and its moisture brings welcome coolness to my face and arms.

The continuous, regular rhythm of my lungs’ halations helps me purge the feelings and thoughts associated with other humans and their works.

There is no trail to guide me further. I find a deer track.

Umunhum-03The foliage is watered by Pacific fogs and low clouds at this elevation.  Patterns of moisture flow through the undulating and twisting canyons, and through the convoluted layers of sedimentary rock below the surface.

Trees, bushes, grasses, mosses, lichen.

I don’t want to twist an ankle or break a bone by slipping into a hidden hole or crevasse.  No one knows where I am.

The delicious danger of this part of the hike makes my heart beat with more urgency than called for by the exertion of the climb.  My senses are at their peak alertness and I feel fully alive and vibrant.  I am not fearful, nor am I careless. I am positive in every movement; I neither hurry nor plod.  I observe everything around me directly, without being conscious of my observing.

This steeper climb taxes my legs and lungs, but the adrenaline generated by the adventure helps me easily overcome the burden.

Without time and almost without space, except for the flow of greens and browns past my eyes, I march upward.

I enter a different vegetation zone. Things are deeper green, and denser. Smells are damper, more pungent.  I step over trickles of water seeping from beneath the layers of fallen leaves and dead tree limbs.

I break through the top of the cloud.  The foliage is too high and thick to permit but small bursts of direct sunlight.  The dryer air has a lightness that stimulates me to quicken the pace.

I suddenly emerge into a clearing, the sun slanting from the right.  I stop, back up slightly to scan the open area from the shade, and allow my breathing and heart to resume slower rhythms.

I’ve worked up a sweat.

A large rock formation in the treeless area ahead offers time in the sunlight.

The sounds of the birds envelope me.  They have become untouched friends over the years.   I am gladdened and relaxed by their chattering, chirping, clicking and warbling.  Even the raucous jays are part of this pleasant symphony.

I see the ridges of the nearby mountains for tens of miles.

I doze, aware but unfocused.  No questions, no concerns.

Time no longer exists.  I am where I am.

I have joined with the forest and its mother, the mountain.

I am home.

Three Haiku from Today’s Walk on Bernal Hill

low sunlight reveals

arachne’s glimmering shroud

blanketing parched ground

2014-05-24 Bernal Hill-01

 

old oaks on hilltop

thrive among the dry grasses

during this year’s drought

 

2014-05-24 Bernal Hill-08

 

modest blue flower

reminds us of many lives

hidden by the grass

 

2014-05-24 Bernal Hill-10