Thursday, February 23, 2017

Heavy Snow

[Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter

It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
The only things moving are swirls of snow.
As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.]   Robert Bly

Heavy Snow by Dana Stone

We had a deep snow by morning,
blanketed everything around us.
Every limb and twig, etched in white like frosting
Thick sheets on the roof of the barn
frozen in time, 
stillness beckoning me forward, 
holding a pail,
overflowing with oats
for mare her newborn colt
waiting for me in the shadows.

Monday, February 20, 2017


notes:  by now you've probably seen the photoshoot of the Russian model dangling from a skyscraper in Dubai.  I'm puzzled by why someone would be willing to risk her life for an Instagram post.  What a world we are living in!  I decided to write this poem from the perspective of: what if her hand had slipped from her partner's?  The video is given below.
I couldn't get the images out of my mind so decided to write a poem...The crystal image at the end is taken from a poem by Stephen Spender.  


The tallest building in the world
located in Dubai
seventy three stories high
spiraling over the Persian Gulf.
Seeking the perfect shot for her portfolio,
young model ventures skyward
to the rooftop where she
steps over a steel girder,
supported by her lover,
hands clasping forearms,
holding tight,
she leans out and flashes a smile

  sudden gust of wind interferes,
sending her floating like dust
to the pavement below where

her body turns to crystal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Where I Am Now

     I'm taking a course called "Writing in the Spirit of William Stafford."  He's my favorite poet.  Why?  It's the gentleness behind his words, the kindness, the encouragement.  I especially love the poem, "You Reading This, Be Ready."   It's been used as a resource for teachers.

     The course has forced me to focus on my poetic voice.  I get so involved in "busyness," that I forget or neglect or don't have time to write.   I think of Rumi's voice:  about staying in one place and not fleeing.

     Stafford's voice has the quality of being soothing, encouraging, wise.
     So I've carved out spaces in my apartment where I can write.  I'm so fortunate to have a forest surrounding  me.  The morning light through the kitchen window lights up my kitchen counter, where I am writing now.  The shadows, the stillness are so comforting.  Sometimes I feel like I need someone there holding my hand while I write, saying "there, there, you're doing fine."

     I'm finding my voice and what I need during these troubling times we are living in.  I thought of John Lennon this morning before going to my writing, his song, "Imagine," has the line:  "Imagine all the life in peace."

      "Living life in peace."  What a beautiful thought.

      Yusef Islam (previously known as Cat Stevens), was wildly popular in the U. S. and U.  K. in the 70's.  Before he stopped recording, he told the story of a miracle he experienced.  He was swimming in the ocean and got caught up in a riptide that swept him out to sea.  No matter how hard he tried to get back to shore, he couldn't.  So he started praying that if he was spared, he would devote the rest of his life to serving God.  That's when he converted to Islam, had an arranged marriage that produced five children, started a school and became involved in peaceful causes.   (He did have a concert in New York in 2016, his first in many years)

     More than ever, we need kindness, thoughtfulness, and artists to show us how to embrace the world.

     Poet Kim Stafford (Williams' son) has published a book of poetry of post election and inauguration poems called "The Flavor of Unity."  Here is sample:

     The Flavor of Unity
By Kim Stafford       
          El sabor que nos hace únicos.
                       — Inca Kola slogan
The flavor that makes us one cannot be bought
or sold, does not belong to a country, cannot
enrich the rich or be denied to the poor.
The flavor that makes us one emanates from the earth.
A butterfly can find it, a child in a house of grass, exiles coming home at last to taste wind off the sea, rain
falling into the trees, mist rising from home ground.
The flavor that makes us one we must feed
to one another with songs, kind words, and
human glances across the silent square.

     As President Obama said, "the sun will rise in the morning."  We need to hang in there and support each other more than ever.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Things I Noticed Last Week

1.  Red berries on the holly bush near my house.
2.  A baby cardinal in the crepe myrtle tree outside with remnants of a bird's nest nearby.
3.  An old tobacco shed in the woods across from me.
4.  The healing warmth of the heat on my knee.
5.  Rosie's encouragements over my little successes.
6.  The lilting laughter of my friend Anne in Arizona.
7.  A hand blown vase from West Virginia that I bought for my mother when I was 16.
8.  How my brother calls me "the family historian."
9.  How I'd like to contact my half sister's daughters, whom I've never met.
10.  The pleasures of staying put rather than rushing about all the time.
11.  How I'm looking forward to seeing the 6th graders again.
12.  The freedom of not eating meat.
13.  The pleasures of the cardinal's song, "chid-chio-chio..."
14.  How I want to learn the history of a special tree in the Luxembourg Gardens.
15.  That I need to call Elizabeth.
16.  The portrait of Ida Friday at UNC next to the one of her husband, Bill; the announcement that she died that night at 97.
17.  A photograph of Jordan Kristen holding onto her bike partner with her body outstretched behind him, like she was flying.
18.  How I keep going back to wanting to attend the Pilobolus workshop in June.
19.  How energizing it was to volunteer at the public radio station and chat with Eric Hodge, who called me one morning about winning a trip to Paris.
20.  Awareness of the blowing, cooling wind yesterday.
21.  Those tree tops swaying in the wind.  Are they Long Leaf Pines?
22.  Listening to Yusef Islam  sing "I listen to the wind of my soul."
23.  The sounds of frogs mating; spring comes early to North Carolina.
24.  The beautiful, long, dark green pine needles of those trees.
25.  There's something about a forest.  I think I prefer it to the beach.
26.  A photograph of the house I used to own showed that the new owner had ripped up the boxwoods and forsythia in front.
27.  A feeling of relief over living in a "blue county."
28.  Missing Black Mountain College.
29.  Finding a post card I bought in a museum of Ray Johnson.
30.  Raindrops.

William Stafford

You Reading This, Be Ready
William Stafford
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Absolutely my favorite poem by Stafford...
Stafford had a wide influence and it's no wonder he was named Poet Laureate of the U. S.  I love the encouraging, wise nature of his poetry....for me, it's like having a warm blanket placed over me.
Check out the Stenhouse Blog, a resource for teachers:

Sunday, February 5, 2017




and just be


Paying attention

and see what happens

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Not Today

Not Today

My left leg looked like a
stuffed sausage,
ankle swollen, 

veins the color of wedgwood,
angry and raised,
pink splotches,
scattered about.

I found three pillows
for elevation
drifted into meditation
for 30 minutes,
before calling NurseLine
to report my concerns.

"Well, according to your symptoms,
you need to go to an emergency room right now."
"Well, I can't, I'm in a town I'm not familiar with,
and besides, I use Duke,
so I'm going there."

Denial kicked in.
This was fucking inconvenience
Ruined my plans for a nice breakfast out
and walk around town.

My leg was sore but I threw clothes into a
 suitcase and went downstairs to the kitchen.
I'd probably missed breakfast.
Everyone else was drinking coffee
and chatting.  In good spirits.

I took a deep breath,
"I just got some bad news,
I have to go to an emergency room."
I did the mature thing
and broke into tears.

"Want me to drive you?"
"No, I'm driving myself to Duke.
They told me the closest emergency room
was in Sanford, halfway to Durham anyway."

"There's a closer one,"
a calm voice responded,
"in Pinehurst."
Tiny Pinehurst, I thought,
what kind of hospital would they have.

"They have a good hospital, and it's close by,"
the calm voice responded.
"Could you take me there?"
"Sure, I'm ready."

I did the mature thing by crying again,
concerned that the dance workshop
I'd been preparing for was off.
Why me?

The hospital looked like a resort
and I got a private room.
Asked Michael if he could come in with me.
Hoped he wouldn't mind.  I'd just met this
man the night before.

There was a painting in my room and I
focused on it to calm down.
A nurse came in and took vitals,
hooked me up to a machine that
kept track of blood pressure and pulse,
slid a needle into my arm.

I watched the vial fill up and waited.
"What's a three letter word for dunce?"
"Ass," was the only thing
I could think of.
Grateful for the comfort of crosswords
 and that calm voice.
Some people are like "God with
skin on" and he was one of those.

"We need to check for clots."
I started to see my life
flash before my eyes.

More waiting, crying,
a phone call
to my son.
We chatted.  I could hear my
grand daughter playing in
the background.
"Hi, Gamma!"  That did it
and the floodgates opened again.

Crying on the phone to my son.
Waiting, waiting.
Thirty minutes.
An hour.
An hour and a half.
Gary, the nurse, told us he was
reading "Paradise Lost."
He was glad to be working as a nurse
rather than digging ditches somewhere.

"I'm not ready yet,"
I thought to myself.  So much to do,
including dishes left in the sink.

"I don't think you have a blood clot,"
that comforting voice.  Bless him.

"They're ready for you now."
A dark room,
its only light from the ultrasound,
the only warmth
a warm gel on my skin as
Jacqueline scanned a smooth
porcelain ball
up and down my legs.
She calmed my fears, asked me what
I was afraid of,
why I was worried.

"Dying," I thought.
I was missing my son and his
little daughter, wondering if I'd
ever be able to watch her prance across
the living room again,
or lick the frosting off
a gingerbread house.

Margot, Margot, Margot,
the thought of her dimples and
curl-framed face brought me comfort.

Remember how she blew kisses.
How she'd si ton her knees
looking out the train window,
 all her favorite shops passing by,
like Tate and with its cinnamon rolls.
I want to visit there with her soon.

And I still haven't seen
that painting of Washington at the MFA
or been to Cuba,
or visited my father's grave,
or the Somme, or Nantucket
or Cornwall, where
St. Gaudens crafted his sculpture
of the Massachusetts 54th.

And of course, there is always Paris.
Oh, to stay again at the Royal St. Germaine,
visit the Luxembourg Gardens,
or le Dome where Hemingway wrote.
So many places.

"There aren't any clots."
Jacqueline reassured me.
I was cold and Jermaine put a blanket
over me, right out of the warmer,
 and rolled me  back to my room.  Smooth ride,
unlike the Georgia one where they bumped
the gurney into walls, sending me into
spasms of pain.

Back to my pink room with the Impressionist painting.
Dr. Gregory gave me a prescription
for rest, elevation, and warmth.

Many hearts would stop beating
that day,
but not this one.


Vultures (c)
by Dana Stone

circle overhead
far away from news and noise
what messages do you bring
to us who wait and wonder

you flap your wings through
branches down to forest floor
then fly higher still and bring
hope and dreams for all

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A New Way to Move: Feldenkrais

(from the Elephant Journal)

When I was trying to be a yogi, I wasn’t being myself.

I didn’t intend to stop doing yoga.
I had practiced fairly consistently for more than a decade, beginning with ashtanga, switching to Baron Baptiste’s Power Yoga (Boston, Denver) before migrating to Forrest yoga (Denver) where I ultimately and joyfully did a handstand. But a leg and foot injury I sustained while completing Spain’s El Camino de Santiago in autumn of 2012 made many standing yoga positions painful if not impossible.
My quest for relief led me to a podiatrist, two physical therapists, a deep tissue masseuse and a Rolfer. Despite dry needle treatments and a third set of custom orthotics, my injury showed few signs of healing. I couldn’t spend much time on my feet, period, let alone hike, dance or do yoga, activities that boosted my spirit and kept me from teetering into depression. I took up swimming and, after doing laps daily, developed a chlorine allergy.
That summer, I rented a room in Boulder so I could swim in its reservoir. That wasn’t enough to keep my spirits afloat. When I stumbled across and limped into a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement class, I was desperate. The Facebook ad said the class involved slow, gentle movements.
Those I could do, even though I yearned to do large, vigorous ones.
In that first lesson, a handful of us in street clothes lay down on folded, denim blue moving blankets. The teacher guided us through a series of movements that, for me, were excruciatingly slow and numbingly repetitive, with no obvious goal. He told us to move even more slowly and not approach our full range.
Then, he told us to rest.
My monkey mind went berserk: “Rest? We have barely budged! We have not broken a sweat!!” “This is boring!” “This is for old people!” “When will this nonsense be over?”
After enduring 45 minutes of self-inflicted torture while moving slowly, I heard the teacher tell us to stand and notice any differences. To my astonishment, I felt refreshed and extremely present, as if someone had hit the reset button on my nervous system.
Gone were the anxiety and despair I had experienced less than an hour before, even though my life circumstances were unchanged and my leg still hurt. But I had changed, in a way that I couldn’t immediately comprehend, let alone explain. The shift in my sense of self felt more profound than anything I had ever experienced in yoga, despite years of practice. My leg injury, which had dominated my emotional landscape for months, suddenly receded into the background. I knew I’d be fine even if I never bagged another peak.
Each time I returned to class, I experienced magic. I stopped resenting the unglamorous, pose-less and pointless movements and appreciated that they helped me learn to pay extremely close attention to myself.
I began reading books by Moshe Feldenkrais, the Jewish physicist, engineer and Judo master who developed his method while healing his own incapacitating knee injuries. I became more fascinated with, than frustrated by, the mechanics of my injury and began to view my chronic but intermittent hip pain, for which I once found temporary relief in pigeon pose, as a puzzle to solve or a code to crack, rather than continuing to believe what many yoga teachers had said, that “grief is stored in the hips.”
The more I practiced Feldenkrais, the more I appreciated its premise. In a society acculturated to fast, dynamic or sexy moves, the Feldenkrais Method can seem baffling. But the idea behind the small and sometimes barely perceptible movements is simple: moving very slowly, in a limited range and with awareness helps the brain discern differences so it can choose the easier pathway. The brain, like a wine connoisseur, samples small amounts to make distinctions. It requires periodic pauses to integrate the new information.
Moving quickly or with too much effort is, from the brain’s standpoint, a bit like getting drunk: it might feel good temporarily but is less likely to lead to improved functioning.
The more I immersed myself in Feldenkrais, the more I valued its low frills culture. That students often wear regular clothing was a huge relief from the Lululemon “look” infiltrating the yoga world. That I didn’t break a sweat meant I could attend class without needing to shower afterward, simplifying logistics. That there are no poses, only suggestions for movement, allowed me to find my own way of doing things, without comparing myself to others or being adjusted. That the Feldenkrais classes lacked the beehive vibe of many yoga studios made me, a highly sensitive introvert, feel more comfortable.
I liked Feldenkrais so much I enrolled in a training program to deepen my somatic awareness. I’m still years from being certified, but even after 11 weeks of training over nine months, here’s a short list of what I’ve observed from moving slowly while lying, sitting or rolling on the floor:
  • My hip pain has resolved almost completely, which hundreds of pigeon poses didn’t address
  • My vertebrae stack comfortably and effortlessly when I meditate, without my having to adjust my alignment
  • My breathing is consistently deeper and more relaxed
  • My body moves with an unprecedented lightness and ease that feels miraculous
Since the Feldenkrais Method makes all movement easier—whether that’s getting out of a chair, onto a horse, or into chaturanga—many yoga poses are probably more accessible to me today than when I was trying to be a yogi. And that, I see now, was precisely the problem: when I did yoga, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. With Feldenkrais, I feel more like myself and more at one with the world.