How’s the Weather?


Cold air stings my face. I think about conversations we have with taxi drivers about the most cliche of subjects, the weather. Is it not the topic that makes us all scoff? But when you’re from a different hemisphere, the weather becomes interesting.

We hear people in Peru talk of how cold it is outside, and it makes us smile. I think of our winters at home where the streets are coated with layers of snow and it’s difficult to crawl out of bed.

I find the Peruvian winter, at least in Lima, like the colder months of autumn—minus pumpkin spice fever. It’s a pleasant time when you can walk around with a scarf and think of carving pumpkins…but you don’t see any.

It’s disconcerting to feel this temperature and not see a pumpkin patch. You don’t think about such details at home, things so mundane as a pile of fat pumpkins in front of the grocery store.

Friends, you learn unexpected when you travel; apparently, pumpkins are a bigger part of my life than I thought.

When we describe winter at home, people smile and seem to give thanks they do not live somewhere so frosty. It’s as if, all of a sudden, the weather isn’t so cold.

They then ask where we live. Idaho, we respond, to confusion. Where is that? Did you say Ohio? Iowa? Where is Idaho? It’s up northwest. Is it near Arizona? Is it near Canada? Yes, it’s near Canada.

Sometimes, after these vague directions, the person gets an idea of where we are. Sometimes they remember having heard of Idaho at some point. Most of the time we leave the taxi feeling like tourists from Wonderland or Oz.

The taxi driver zooms away picturing us as living in a place like Monet’s Snow at Argenteuil. Sometimes Boise does look like that.

Claude Monet, Snow at Argenteuil

Traveling, you learn that the weather isn’t simple after all. What Peru lacks in snow is made up for with humidity. The hostel where we’ve been staying for three weeks is next to the ocean; if you open the window and lean outside, you smell it.

We breathe in seawater, and though it does not feel terribly cold on the outside, the body becomes cold. I had bronchitis the first week here. At home, I have never had such a bad cold, even in years when the snow has been terrifying. Perhaps it’s not impossible, but it’s never happened to me.

Travel helps you learn about the place where you live; you unearth gems of your tradition, habits you didn’t know had gotten under your skin, like choosing pumpkins when the weather is cool. Life is a painting, and you have to look for the contrasts.

Colors of Travel


What have I learned visiting a different hemisphere for two weeks? I could go on about the cliches. In a different country we discover new cultures, cities, customs. We encounter things of the past, ruins and cathedrals built centuries ago, structures with such detail few today can mimic them.

To be honest, I haven’t seen this trip with the eyes of a tourist. Cultures, cities, customs–these are things anyone can learn when they visit a different country. They can be learned online, as well, through a quick Google search.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustave Flaubert

What do we learn about ourselves? Every human spirit is a castle with undiscovered rooms. Doors must be opened, and when they are, the traveler will find in themselves a stranger. If travel is done correctly, we should not be able to recognize ourselves.

We are all made of divine colors visible to ourselves and God. He is all-knowing, so the heavenly shades cannot surprise Him; the same cannot be said for ourselves. We become frightened running into a contrast we consider too bold, or a shade too soft for our comfort. It’s like asking a stranger what they are doing inside of our skin.

Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal

When forced to relearn things such as how to cross the street, you face the patterns of your soul. There is nothing so foreign to us as the gradients that make us. See how they merge so mysteriously! Ask yourself, What is going on here? Why does the person in the looking-glass resemble me but not feel like me? It is thrilling and terrifying.

After two weeks in Peru (and another because of the hurricane), I looked in the mirror. What I saw resembled the person who had gone to the airport, but she was not the same. She could smile and mean it. She liked the light in her eyes, and could converse with strangers in a different language.

Her soul was foreign, but it was her.

Other things came as a surprise, such as how I like pastels. In the past I was faithful to forest colors or shades of blue, but now I am drawn to lavender, yellow, shades that remind me of the ballerinas in an Edgar Degas painting. I do not like loud shades of pink, but soft ones, those that could almost be called white. You see it if you know how to look.

Is it color I like in myself, or what the color reminds me of? In Degas paintings I see color in motion, coming alive. That flash of yellow is doing a pirouette, the pink is securing a bow; they are alive and breathing. I believe that travel done correctly makes you see your own colors.

How sweet to feel colors in me that promise I am alive, a painting like every other soul. Travel done right uncovers them so that life is never the same.

Dwelling-Place of Storm


I am a poet,
Keeper of flowers
Dwelling-place of storm.

My emotions
Manifest in
Terrifying form.

I can destroy you
With my words,
Feeling no remorse,

Or I can calm you,
Fighting battles
For you at the source.

I’ve learned there is
No middle ground:
Believe me, I tried.

I am a dwelling-place
Of storm;
Friend, I never lied.

Hundred-Acre Grave


Yesterday, the blue and gray
Skies rolling overhead,
Sighing, seemed to me to say
The rivers had turned red.

Treading gentle on the grass,
I sought peace but found none.
April, she had come to pass,
Her faithful weeping done.

Musical, the ancient trees
Groaned with the bluegray sky.
Their duet, a mournful sound,
Spoke of a world awry.

One persistent hummingbird
Called, as if I could save
Her home from the fate I heard,
A hundred-acre grave.

As I trekked an ancient trail,
Trees around me died.
Had April seen her tears fail,
Longer she’d have cried.

Poetry


Bottle up your pain
In an old, glass jar.
Let it sit there for a day
‘Til it’s black as tar.

Fall down on the grass,
Find a feather there.
Take your bottle; feel the sun
Shine down on your hair.

Use the feather, trace
Feelings in the dirt.
It would be a shame to waste the
Art found in your hurt.

If a leaf falls down,
Take to it with ink.
Rinse your newly emptied jar;
Just don’t stain the sink.

Finally, you’ll breathe;
Pressure, it will fade.
This is how the realest sort
Of poetry is made.

Calluses


I am building calluses
Around my heart.
Nobody can come in
To hear my song.

She’s losing strength
Because I exposed her
To empty souls who
Did not know,

That she is a melody
Few have heard,
And she is timid.
She will hide.

I will not forsake her
Or sing her to the dark,
So I am building calluses
Around my heart.

Flowers


You were never going to see me
Among all the other flowers,
Watching idle as the strangers
Daily passed me by.

I am not unlike my sisters,
Neither am I just like them;
We are gathered as a body
Staring at the sky.

If you deign to come in closer
And, for once, get on your knees,
You might see my red is different—
Only by a hue—

Maybe if you bowed your head
And plucked me from the ground,
You could press me in a book,
A love poem for you.

Stars


Did you see the stars tonight?
I could hear them cry
Watching human promises,
Every one a lie.

The stars above, among themselves,
Feel no need to compete.
Each is glad for her own light,
Sacred and complete.

One by one they turn away,
Collapsing in despair:
Their grief consuming everything,
Leaving their wrath fair.

Child, don’t wish upon the star,
But promise her you’ll wake.
Nothing good will come to you
Defending your mistake.

In Grief


The day the grand piano was tuned, no one remained to play it. When the carpets were cleaned, not a soul walked the halls.

The lonesome house was being scrubbed to make space for new life—but wasn’t ready to let go. One could feel in the air a note from a lullaby never finished; it sought attention from anyone who would listen.

Empty were the chairs round the table and nothing baked in the oven. The curtains, once open to admit light of the sun, remained shut like a barrier to keep out the New.

Who, now, would rush down the stairs to greet the postman? Would anyone sit at the balcony again?

The house remembered, and was loathe to let go. It longed for the sound of children laughing and the cheer of the lamps. No one walked its halls, and it wondered why no one considered the pain of spaces where memories were made.

The house was not an empty shell; in silence, it mourned with the family.

l’automne


Your bookshelves are empty.
Outside, the leaves fall.
We’re waiting through
The saddest autumn of all.

Your piano is sleeping—
Too great for my hands.
Still, I will play
‘Til my heart understands.

I took home your paper
To sketch out your face,
But you have a smile
That art can’t replace.

The trees out your window
Have all become bare.
So I search my heart:
You will always be there.

I’m thankful to have this beautiful woman for a grandmother. And I’m thankful to have her for another Thanksgiving.

Owlhearted


I am owlhearted.
I sing and then I rest
On the highest shelf, on which
I made a cozy nest.

I am owlhearted.
I slumber in the day.
Fairies will come out at night,
And that is when I play.

I am owlhearted.
You can’t deceive me,
For it is not with my eyes,
But my soul, that I see.

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