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My sky is my life

My life is the sky,

My mind is a valley, covered in fog,

Like an glass eye, staring vacant,

Like a treetop aching for the sun.

My soul is spread across the horizon

Like an undiscovered canticle

On a blackboard, hidden,

As if anything written across its virgin black

Might change the world before it disappears.

Are we but a blackboard with

Words wiped away?

The lost thought, the pretext, now the past,

Sent away to define their own east and west?

Our words, our lusts, our prayers,

Words where there are no words

Souls where there are no souls

Abandonment where there was once substance

But with a little imagination

Can we find ourselves un-erased?

 

A blackboard obscure and somber

The sun fades forever

Into the blackness,

Into the dust.

Phrases hidden in faint visions

Our once solemn vows are but

Remnants of a civilization.

Ideas that never flourished

Never gave a reward,

Never gave nourishment to an empty soul

Never a grain left behind, but an already eaten morsel,

Stale and quotidian

My life is a brazen question

Unasked and unanswered

Forgotten on the lips of a corpse.

 

 

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1. Your ashes blown eastward

Memories fade like flowers

Phoenix cries at night

 

 

2. We take our final walk

Your ashes mix with the frozen ground

The snow learns your name.

 

David Henry Hass,

Jan. 5, 1928 – Jan. 12, 2017

Missing my father, he died last week and his ashes were spread over his favorite hunting spot without a ceremony, as was his wish.

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With, of course, all due respect to the brilliance of Gil Scot Heron, this time the revolution WILL be televised, send around the world live as a show of solidarity for all our brothers and sisters as they face their own struggle against the forces of facism and oppression, eager to wake to a new dawn where gender, race, sexuality, intellect, looks, nor religion are no longer a factor in determining one’s self-worth nor the individuals contribution to society. The revolution will be televised. It will be sponsored by the prayers of mothers in Aleppo, the fears of children in Gaza, the cries of hungry children of unemployed factory workers in Detroit and Portland, by the pain of migrant workers in the vineyards of California, by the single mother working three jobs to feed her child because some Trump- loving bureaucrat with no heart cut the funding that helped pay her rent while she finished her high school degree, the revolution will be televised the revolution will be televised the revolution will be televised. The revolution will be live!! #NowPlaying the revolution will be televised by Dan Hass https://open.spotify.com/user/danandinger/playlist/4bnyLrSGvNVfBEhNrUDOK0

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I posted this first on Facebook, to share it with my family and those friends who were kind enough to offer words of comfort in the days after my fathers death. I am re-posting it here.

 

I am surprised and forever grateful at all of the warmth and support I have received regarding my fathers death. It truly is empowering to see so many kind words from friends and family both far and near, new and old. I will try to take the time, later, to thank each of you individually but for now, please accept my heartfelt gratitude.

When I grew up, my father and I didn’t have a close relationship. My parents divorced when I was about 6 years old and he and I had some very different concepts as was so usual in the 1960s. I knew that no matter how much I might have wanted things to be different, no matter how much I, in my youthful innocence, blamed myself for their divorce, things were the way they were for reasons that I couldn’t understand, nor change. Sadly, I don’t have a great deal of memories of him from my youth.

I do remember the service station / garage he owned at the time of the divorce. It was up in NW Portland, an area I actually would move to after college. I was in kindergarten and then first grade (ages 5 and 6) and when school was out, I would sometimes go there, to be with him and to have a parent to watch over me, as Mom was also working. I seem to remember it being a Flying A (or Texaco?), station by brand name. I would sit on the long workbench in the garage, where they did the car repairs and look forward to eating the chocolate malted milk balls, called Hercules, that he hid in a drawer. I remember his trucks; he was also a truck driver and was often gone on longer hauls. That had, as I found out later, a damaging effect on my parents’ marriage, and my memories of and relationship with him. It meant that I didn’t see my Dad as much as other kids did theirs. I do remember going to the woods with him, though, as he always loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and he passed that love of nature on to us.

Sadly, the divorce was not all smiles and fond farewells. There was more than a little bit of bitterness, due to the circumstances involved. As an insecure, shy 6 year old, I bonded with my mother, who had custody of us, as is typical in a single parent family. I remember hearing some of what was said, or what I thought was said, or what was implied, or what was the creation of either me or my siblings and being fairly well devastated by the whole thing. As I said, I internalized it. Without understanding where these feelings came from, without knowing the reality, despite the best efforts of both parents, sometimes directly or by proxy, and my brother and sisters, I remember being very sad, more sad than angry, although I was angry too, for a very long time and I kept it inside.

Sadly, I don’t know what my father thought of me growing up. He was never the type to express his feelings at all. If you allowed him, he would show his kindness, his humor, but rarely did he talk openly and never about the divorce, not to me. Probably for that reason, he and I grew apart. I more or less decided to go my own way without his support or consent. Through my college years and for many years thereafter, we rarely saw or spoke to each other, and then it was strained and uncomfortable.

I remember one time he had gone into the hospital for surgery, when I was a fully grown adult. I don’t remember the year, but I THINK, I was living in Yakima at the time. My Mother told me to call him at the hospital and talk to him, a request that always brought both tension and resentment to the surface. It was a very short phone call. I remember almost every word. I said I was calling to see how he was and hoped he was resting. He replied “I’m fine, and you don’t need to call anymore. Goodbye” and hung up. I was shattered. What I didn’t realize then was that it was his way of dealing with his own discomfort at being in the hospital. He hated it, as I found out later and felt as if his air of invincibility was compromised. His gruffness was not intended to wound, but was an almost desperate defense against vulnerability. My mom had asked me to call her back and let her know how he was doing. I did. I told her how bloody angry I was and that I didn’t want to call him anymore. And I didn’t for a number of years.

In 2002, I met the woman who would later become my wife and decided to finally get married. The wedding was to be held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day in 2003, at my sisters’ house in the Portland suburbs. It would be small, only family and a very few select friends, invited verbally or by mail or phone. Despite the informal invites, friends and family rsvp:d. Except my father. You usually didn’t know whether he would show up or not. I remember telling Inger that I doubted he would come and wasn’t at all surprised that he didn’t rsvp. He did show, and it started a healing process for us both.

After I moved to Stockholm the next spring, it was harder to keep contact with anyone in my family, of course. I called him a few times a year; each phone call would be a little warmer in tone than the last. Easier, I suspect for us both over time.

In May 2016, I got a phone call from my sister, Della. Dad was very ill and probably would not recover. My brother kindly offered to pay my airfare to Portland and back so that I could be with the family and see my father. He had been extremely ill on the days before I flew in, but was in good form and spirits when we all showed up at his house near the Oregon coast. He had arranged for us to have an oyster fest and had a whole bunch of fresh oysters, beer, salad, all the things you would want (except sunshine). We talked about how things were in Stockholm, how my wife was, she was home, and my job, etc. We talked about his health problems. The others arrived and he was in a great mood. As I left, we shook hands, and I gave him a kiss on the forehead and told him I loved him. I hadn’t said those words to him in I don’t know how long. I called him a few times in the months after, and the conversations were glad, albeit short. He always hated the telephone.

On his birthday this year, Jan. 5th, I called him again, and wished him a happy birthday.

That was the last time I talked to him.

I’m writing this not to be sad, quite the contrary. To be happy that he had the life he had. To be happy that he and I made the peace we made. And to let him know that I love him and will miss him very much. There was a gaping hole that wasn’t filled and it was both of our faults, his and mine. Fortunately it got filled, at least partially, before it was too late. My family and closest friends always tried to tell me to find a way to mend it, that I’d regret if I didn’t. I would, for the most part, shake my head. I’m glad I finally listened.

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1.
Where have they gone
The young and the proud?

Will we say their names again?
Will we sing their praises on Sundays in church?
Will their photographs hang in Willies’ barbershop windows
Alongside the heroes of World War 2,
The Norman Rockwell prints
And his autographed photos of Ted Williams and Rocky Marciano?

Will there be a celebration of their sacrifices in the town square
The mayor making a speech and mounting a plaque?
The mothers and sisters and wives crying inconsolably?

Or will their fathers hide their grief in bottles of moonshine
The bitterness growing with every drop
Their mothers asking themselves in secrecy what they’ve done wrong
Sisters feeling unprotected without big brother
Little brothers lacking a role model, what chance do they have?
Will no one waltz in the street when their names are mentioned
Or will they merely turn their grief away?

Who will lead us into the future?
Who will install that first traffic light?
Their photos in the Sunday paper big smiles all around
Where will our smiles come from without our boys as heroes?

There will be no continuity here
A generation is lost
Our sons have been ripped from their future
Johnny will not come marching home again.

Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
Why have you left our lives?
Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
And what will become of us?

2.
Where have they gone
The young and proud?

Where is Gus?
He who could run like the wind
Down the field to victory on homecoming night

Where is Eddie with the cannon right arm?
He who threw the winning touchdown pass to Gus?

Where is Lawrence?
He who made his grandmother so proud
Her slave life stories were so vivid in his mind
The first one in the family to finish school

Where are Gunvald and Bengt?
The town’s only immigrant sons,
Those two new Sons of the Town who worked so much harder,
Just to fit in,

Where is Tom?
He who always drove too fast
Son of the local sheriff,
Racing in the streets on Saturday nights?

Will their parents mourn their loss?
Will we notice their absence?

Greg, he whose Diner has already closed down,
Crippled after his hip surgery failed, and now
Gus is not there to take his place
Irene, his wife, she who couldn’t deal with the loss
The towns first civilian casualty
Of a war so far away

The 5 and Dime store won’t last long either,
Mr. Nichols, he who is getting older by the day,
Never stands outside the shop door anymore, greeting everyone,
His health is failing and Eddie isn’t coming back to take over
It’s a matter of time now they say.

Pete he who can’t climb the trees anymore to trim them,
Says he’ll have to sell his orchards and land to pay his mortgage
Gunvald and Bengt will be trimming trees only in Pete’s memories

Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
Why have you left our lives,
Where have you gone, my heroes my heroes,
And what will become of us?

 

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I will see nothing
But the children of peace
Their hair spread against the wind
Like the wings of angels

I will hear nothing
From the tombs of your dead
But the voices from my own thoughts
Like the salve of the ages

I will not open my door
To you as a visitor
Bringing your unrepentant anger
To my thirsty soul

I will no longer dance
With you parents of war
Your darkness blots out
The light from my feet

I will not see your world
Nor read your newspaper
Not hear your symphony
I will not say your prayers
But those which I make myself
The words of empowerment
The songs of unison

I will not drink at your table
I will not eat of your meat
You have no nourishment
To offer such a one as I

The end of the world
As you know it
Will be our only salvation

I will not die
Until we, all of us,
Can die under peaceful skies
Our souls drifting quietly across the sunset
Like a shroud of the finest linen

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Imagine my horror when what I thought was…

 

Actually turned out to be THIS!!

ARRRRGHHHHHH!!!

 

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