Death Sentence

Saw the doc
again today.
Despite all that exercise
my Chi isn’t as strong
as it was last year

and will continue
to decline
even if I take
the latest drug —
just not as fast.

At that rate
I should run out
of dollars
before I run
out of breath.

Knowing it
couldn’t be denied,
I stopped at Pao’s
and got two

If I’m going
on a long trip,
damn well
going to start it
on a full stomach.

Sand Hill Cranes at Nisqually

Although it’s been an unusually wet April, I still have many photographs I haven’t had time to collate, edit, and polish up enough to post here. For instance, these photos came from my visit to the Nisqually national wildlife refuge in the second week of April.

The day began with a rare sighting of Sandhill Cranes, a bird I’ve only seen a few times and have never seen in Nisqually.

Sandhill Cranes

Unfortunately, they were walking away from the gathered photographers by the time I got there, so these shots were taken at a considerable distance.

Sandhill Cranes

I find it impossible not to be impressed by their sheer size, but they’re not really a favorite photographic subject.

I would probably enjoy getting a great shot of a green winged teal as much as I would a great shot of a sandhill crane.

Green-Winged Teal

For me, the highlight of the day actually came just as I was leaving and flushed an American bittern.

American Bittern in flight

I ended up spending more time taking photographs of this commonly-seen bird than I did of the much rarer sandhill cranes. I always enjoy watching a bittern “hide” when it knows it has been spotted.

American Bittern

I even enjoyed watching it stalk its prey once it was convinced that I didn’t present any real threat.

American Bittern

I still get a “thrill” when I see a bird for the first time, but I get the most pleasure from observing and photographing birds that I’ve gotten to know. Perhaps that is why I’ve never really been tempted by birding trips to exotic locales.

A Quick Visit to The Rose Garden

Yesterday we finally got a short break from the week’s rain, so I took the opportunity to drive down to the Point Defiance Rose Garden and Rhododendron Garden.

As might be expected after such heavy, warm rains, there were lots of flowers in bloom but many weren’t in the best of condition.

For instance, lots of the iris were in bloom but they seemed unusually short, almost stunted.

Purple and White Iris

A lot of the early tulips in the borders were well past their prime, but some of the later hybrids were as vibrant as I’ve ever seen them,

Hybrid Tulips

goblets of sunshine.

As usual, if you keep your eyes open you’ll see new varieties throughout the garden. I loved this delicate little flower,

unknown white flower

which looked like it might have been even more impressive earlier.

Naturally, I also stopped off at the Rhododendron Garden, a personal favorite. When we were here little over a week ago with the grandkids there weren’t many flowers at all, but a lot of the earlier varieties are now in full bloom,

pink Rhododendron

and unfortunately the heavy rain is even caused some of them to start dropping their blossoms.

Even a few of the later varieties seem to have started to bloom,

salmon-colored Rhododendron

though there are even more that have not blossomed yet. Still, if you’re a Tacoma resident and like rhododendrons you’d probably enjoy a visit to the garden as much as I did.

When the Shoe Fits

I could probably spend weeks discussing Merton’s Chuang Tzu, but I’m going to end the discussion for now with another short poem that really appeals to me.


Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.
His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.
No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.
So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
“For” and “against” are forgotten.
No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.
Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

If I’d had another lifetime, or two, I would have loved to be a woodworker, a craftsman. I did devote several years to woodworking and managed to become skilled in some aspects, at least skilled for someone with no official training. Though I never came close to attaining the mastery of “Ch’ui the draftsman” at times I felt like I had mastered particular tools. I was particularly fond of hand planes and came to prefer those to sandpaper because they produced a superior finish, especially when followed by a hand scraper. I stayed with woodworking for many years because it became a form of meditation, a physical escape from abstract ideas where my mind would become free, without concerns.

I often wished the rest of my life had been as free and without concerns, but it never seemed to be. Much of my life the “rules” have seemed to fit too tightly, resulting in blisters and corns. Perhaps only lately, since I have retired and shed all ambitions have I felt free, without concerns. Finally, my heart feels right; I have few drives or compulsions, no needs, and few attractions, unless playing with grandkids could be considered an attraction.

I truly believe that “When the heart is right/ ‘For’ and ‘against’ are forgotten” and doing the right thing is easy.