To Dhyan: Year 7

Dear Dhyan,

Any letters in 2020 should probably be appropriate to the year. It has not been a great one. The world however is complex and the sum of events, even if on the darker side, will have bright moments in it. Watching you and your brother grow certainly has been the brightness of this year. How much you remember from this year, I don’t know, but in 2020 a novel virus called COVID-19 came into the public, killing many and disrupting lives. It has kept a social species largely away from each other and this has been challenging for all of us. Such things used to be commonplace in our world, but things have improved so much that in many countries people refused to believe that it was something to take seriously. It is. Needless to say your first year of school was cut short and you were forced to do much of your schoolwork at home. Similarly, for your first half of grade one. No vacations, no museums, no art classes, and little interaction with friends. I am sorry for this. I can tell what a social person you want to be now, and you were just starting to experience that and it all went away. We adults see time differently. Our larger sense tells us that this year will be but a blip in your lifetime and few memories will remain. In the smaller sense time feels excruciatingly long that we can’t give you all the experience a 6 year old gets. In the balance of things, I’m not worried.

There was a documentary that shows the results of testing the common notion, that the person someone is going to become occurs at the age of 7. While changes can be stark in children, I find it hard to believe you will grow up to be anything other than an amazing person. It is only in this past year that it has really struck me how kind and nurturing you are, and so patient with your brother and it has made me reflect on how I am as a parent. If I can’t be as kind, nurturing, and patient as you, then it is you who I must look to you as my source for inspiration. I believe that when someone brings you joy, you have something to learn from them. You have brought me joy since the moment I met you and I want you to know that I will always look to you to teach me, no matter your age. I am learning new lessons from you all the time just by the very nature of who you are. And you are so beautiful Dhyan I just love looking at you. I wrote this poem about it:

Sometimes I’m afraid
I stare too long
at your face

Each curve and contour
my eyes follow and trace

I look away
efface

Features burned
I cannot erase

As I hold you
in father’s embrace
I know I can never
replace

A beauty so perfect
everyday
teaches me
the meaning of grace

And you’re smart. Oh so smart. You are reading books in the first grade that I couldn’t read until the 2nd and 3rd grade, and I had a pretty good education in Canada! I hope that I keep being the support you need to make sure you are challenged intellectually. I’m still not sure what you are going to be, but you do seem to have a knack for spatial thinking and design. I like watching how your mind works. No matter how smart you turn out, it is your kindness that I will always be the most proud of.

This year’s pandemic has had some positives because it has caused us to go outside more. We developed a bit of a ritual which is on hiatus for the cooler winter weather and that’s to go on a hike at a nearby park once a week. It usually involves a meal and a treat or two. A fair amount of stops along the way. But it’s a wonderful time to spend with you. We’ve even got you to write a few poems with me. The autumn was beautiful this year and each week we got to see the colors change and watch it together. It is a glorious memory. At one point, we even tried to catch falling leaves:

Standing in a rain of leaves
you look up
in wonder
watching one fall
circle
sweeping
towards you
your body starts
to run
to twirl
and I watch you
like glue
in love
and then I watch the rain
and want to play too
and we are both laughing
and cheering in triumph

it’s happiness

I have started writing a lot of poetry this year. I joined the writing community on Twitter and it’s been wonderful for me to stay sane in what has been a difficult year. The pandemic has been stressful certainly, but really it’s more than that. You are going to grow in a country that is failing its people. The power structures have divided us, and they have many people supporting the very power structures that keep them from prosperity. Trump’s presidency is coming to an end and it can’t come soon enough. There is literally no person who is so morally bankrupt and inept and put in a position of power than that man. But this country was in trouble long before. Education is becoming increasingly devalued and this has put a lot of stress at my job as well. Infrastructure collapses all around. The actual positive things that made this country great are forgotten. It is bitter irony that a person who has made the situation in this country so much worse ran on the slogan of Make America Great Again. Whatever his definition of great, it isn’t that great. So that has been what I’m dealing with this past year, and so I just had a moment where I wrote something good on Twitter, and somebody noticed and it lit a flame. I write, because I need to remember that there is beauty everywhere. And that you can have a positive community of people who get along and appreciate beautiful things too. Who see the beauty of humanity and even the ugliness too. But it’s art. It tells stories, teaches lessons, confronts harsh truths but in a delicate way. Sometimes the world seems mad enough that you begin to wonder whether you are sane or not. Writing has helped remind me that I’m sane. Things may get tougher, but remembering the value of human creativity and feeling my own creativity come back gives me the strength of conviction that we will get through this together as a family. So that’s where my head is now.

I am sorry you will have no birthday party this year. But we will have happiness, because there is love. Happy birthday Dhyan. Thank you for making my life more beautiful.

The Daddy Who Went Up The Mountain

Prologue

I woke up this morning with a great deal of excitement. Two days ago we got about 7” of snow and yesterday, while at a nearby park, I spotted an excellent place with a slope that was steep enough to provide a bit of speed for my two children (almost 7, and 2.75 years old) while I also not being ridiculous big for a hike upwards to the top. It was perhaps about 60 ft. It was perfect for sledding.

Our Story

Sledding is a source of many positive memories for me growing up. It was a popular activity in Edmonton where I grew up and it was a common wintertime activity especially since I wasn’t much of a skater. I was going to give my kids the most exciting time of their life.  Oh yes, I will be “fun daddy” as I am sometimes called by the toddler.

I began the arduous task of collecting clothes and getting them dressed. After what can only be described as 3 days later, we were ready to go. When we got to the park, Allie (the toddler) was excited to hold one of the sleds. It was light and so I let him, but it was clear that there was no way he was going to go anywhere fast if left to walk on his own. The half foot snow amounts to 17% of his height and it’s slow going with him even on a sidewalk. This wasn’t going to be easy. So I decided that it might make it easier to trudge a path up there and if we just keep using the same path eventually he might be excited enough to make the trek himself. So I carried him up the first time. We had 3 different sleds. The traditional wooden toboggan. Not sure what it’s called in the U.S. so feel free to look that word up! One sort of surfboard like thing with a plastic bottom and the plastic disc sled.  The snow was completely untouched and the first two went nowhere. On the disc, both Dhyan (my eldest) and I went nowhere also, but Allie slid down slowly.  But it made a track and compressed some of the snow. After a few more times of me carrying Allie up and trying it again we had a viable track, and my older son was able to go down also.

It all sounds good, but my 46 year old body was already feeling it. I was thinking this hill isn’t nearly as big as the one I went on as a kid. Of course the last time I went sledding I was a teen in my prime able to walk up any hill myself. Also the hill didn’t have this much freshly fallen snow to trudge through.  In Canada so many kids go sledding that whenever I would go, it was already a smooth packed surface to easily sail down, and one didn’t have to wade through deep snow to get up to the top.  Many people had already taken the path up. As I continued to lug my toddler back up and then go back down for the sled I could tell I was sweating. Sweat dripped down my face, and inside my winter jacket I could tell I was getting soaked. I was worried about getting chilled so I knew I had to keep exerting energy. No matter how well traveled the path was getting, Allie could not climb on his own. I began to feel like Sisyphus, the boulder was my toddler. And every time I’d get him to the top I would watch him go down again and then go and retrieve him.

Eventually the kids soaked from snow and daddy soaked from sweat I packed them into the car. I remembered that the difference between my toddler and the boulder is that I am sure the boulder, never yelled excitedly as it rolled down. Poor Sisyphus might have even enjoyed his torment if he felt the boulder was having a good time. I asked Dhyan as we drove back if he had a good time and he said yet.  I felt very satisfied. The feeling was short-lived. “Daddy can we do it again tomorrow?”

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Epilogue

As I sit here in my chair. My back, very angry a me right now, I think to myself that I should have known my toddler wouldn’t be able to go up that hill. Still it was worth it. Nevertheless I’d like to thank my parents because while they were certainly younger than I was when they took me up hills, I’m sure it was no easy task and I thank them. Let’s hope I heal in time for round 2 tomorrow. Unlike life in Edmonton, snow doesn’t stick around here in southwest Pennsylvania for very long so we have to take advantage of good snow while it’s here.

I need a hot tub.

Seven Reasons You Can’t Take It With You

Not sure
if you heard the buzz
but I’m the best
there ever was

Jeff Bezos?
I have more wealth
and surely I’m in
better health

Sturgeon caviar, white truffles
Wagyu steak
I eat as much
as my body can take

Everyone talks of Bill Gates
and his fucking NGOs!
That idiot doesn’t watch
where his money goes!

Elephant bull’s ivory tusks
over my bed
Cut the head off myself
after I shot it dead
they say it’s going extinct
I really don’t care
How ’bout I leave it to you
to say a prayer?

The hookers love being mounted
where it’s mounted
I hire so many
I can’t even count it

Look at you judging me
accuse me of greed
If people weren’t so lazy
they wouldn’t be in need

So go away, write your story
my chest feels tight
I’m annoyed by your questions
take off and goodnight


Where’s my servants?
Where is my phone?
That skank reporter left
and I need to get blown

Is that screaming outside?
Can’t the poor stop whining?
The noise is
infernal

Is the thermostat broken?
my staff is a shambles
a nuisance
eternal

Before Dark

She is not sure
if there are others of her kind
She imagines there must be

looking ahead She sees
the atmospheric window open up
the Earth is enjoying a cool evening

She strides with the
turning Earth
sometimes a little faster
sometimes a little slower
Her cape is midnight blue
it shimmers soft
in particles of light
cheating over the horizon

majestic and grim is Her face
proud, lonely
duty-bound

I walk with Her
and She tells me
I don’t owe anything
to the sky anymore
there are going to be stars
and likely a moon
but nobody is watching

it can be time for lingering looks
for dancing with bodies
loose as the wind
a time for kisses
that last too long
no reason for regrets
and then the peace of sleep

but if you don’t want that
She doesn’t judge

when I can no longer
keep pace with Her
She says
the night forgives
and Lady Dusk
pulls the dark night
like a blanket over
my head

Atmospheric Disturbances

Along the westerlies
on that jet you see
you came to me
I stumbled topside-down
moving north and south
the words out of your mouth
and gathered the clouds

feet were cold
to your hot
we met at the boundary

you go low
I go high
and we’ll swirl around the sky
rain rolls in
rain rolls past
bad weather never lasts

we’ll rain down
to the ground
Find some dew
together
me and you

we are the lifeblood
of Earth

Immolation

the heat and the fire
boiled water in the trees
bark cracked
singed
exploded
brought the forest to its knees

the heat and the fire
bellowed ash up to the skies
dimming light
obscuring
clouding
shrouding blue in disguise

the heat and the fire
flee animals! to rock and field!
the nest
the burrow
the leaves
head hangs, hopeless, fate sealed

the heat and the fire
people left all that they earned
praying
hoping
the charring
so many memories are burned

the heat and the fire
brave fighters do all they can do
not enough
all gone
razed
none living today
will see it
anew

The Foolhardy Captain

Desperation
or elation
what drives me to
my destination?

Captain of fools
on turbulent seas
Melville’s Ahab’s got
nothing on me

I see your defenses
typhoon pushing swells
testing tenuous mettle
Where courage dwells

I hearken back
to days that I swore
my wreckage would never
return to your shores

But here I am alone
on the ocean again
though shaky sea legs
remember the pain

So I sail weather wary
my strength is amiss
my mind on the maelstrom
and the briny abyss

Through the heart of chaos
I’ll make for the eye
take my dreams to the depths
for surely I’ll die

Feature photo: Painting, Ship on Stormy Seas by Ivan Ayvanosky

in my shoes

You claim my shoes

It wasn’t so long ago
excitement and shock
the look on your face
when you learned to talk

You will stumble
fall in those boats
while your ambition
carelessly floats

Before you go far
You must know laces
Crisses and crosses
Loops and the chases

You’re going to wander
so learn about soles
they gotta be comfy
always do a test stroll

then you need to know
when to walk when to run
when to take them out dancing
shoes are meant to be fun

You claim my shoes
and all I have
will be yours
in time
but
I dream
I rue
happy
and
trying
not
to
think
about
the day
you fill
my shoes

The Long Leaving

my guardian
my heart
where do I start
Are you yourself?
Can you show me
do you know me?

for years I kept
you near
and I missed
you the most

you never wanted
to be a burden
It was
We were both hurting
But just as you
did it all for me
at my beginning
so shall I be with you
at the end
I shall attend

when you crossed
I was both lost
and free
I want to remember me
have these last few years
moved from the fore
and just reflect
on days of yore

seeing what I might become
Is troublesome
I must live
and not give in
to future fears
while I’m still here

I put shadows of you
in my pocket
and take a step
into the clear air

Written Word

I sat down to write away my pain
But it just came back to me again

So I sat down to write some more
But still the pain, I could not ignore

Then I proceeded to write a book
But page after page, the pain sunk in its hook

To write my pain I did not weary
I turned my book into a series

But that pain, I still did carry
So I even filled a library

Finally
Ink drained from my pen
Words faded from my ken

I prayed
This would be The End