Now the dark begins
Gold and amber leaves turn brown
The days are colder
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.
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.
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.
Once for just the high placed few
Now a common delight
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.
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
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?
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
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”
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
As 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
Where do the birds go?
A swan flies quickly past
Only magpies remain
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.
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:
Carried through the centuries
Brown October ale
The sky and the lake have the same color
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
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?
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
Men at Work
I 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.
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
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 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
should be carried carefully
like a basket of eggs
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.
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 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:
Interesting, but don’t stop
Lots of butts and breasts, hmm
Nice landscapes, talented
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.
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
strong winds this morning
clearing weak twigs and branches
for new leaves next spring
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
Fog over the lake this morning
Evoking San Francisco
And the fog horns of the Golden Gate
First childhood memories
All so far away
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”
But music is not speaking
Messiaen reveals the mystical
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
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.
Perhaps these writings
Will reveal some of
What is already known
In each of us