The Sounds of Solitude

Susan Blair

Wenatchee Area, WA

Deafened by the sounds of solitude,
I fly to the back yard
to my outdoor desk
on the pergola-patio.

No issue of distancing here
as – surrounded by lawn,
by sky, by life
in its leafy, petaled extravagance –

Nature wraps her arms around me,
producing inspiration,
promoting my closeness with the page,
providing feathered frolic as entertainment.

House sparrows fuss and discuss,
ravens and jays issue orders,
California quail – the Keystone Kops
of the bird world – dither about

with chukars chasing and racing them
like third-grade boys playing
with first-graders
at recess-time.

Gray movement like fog rolling
in snags my attention. A cat oozes
from the neighbor’s wall down
into my garden, slinking through iris

and roses, intent on cat business,
sufficient unto itself
as only cats can be
and do in such aristocratic manner.

My kissy sounds, intended
to entice it to my spot
with the offer of free affection,
fall on perverse ears.

Employing the Big Ignore
as only cats can do
so well in such haughty manner,
it spurns my overtures

and carries on, keeping its distance
while looking at me askance
in undisguised anti-socialness.
Disdain, thy name is Cat.

As quick as a tail-flick
it decides that social distancing
is for the birds and trots to me,
its furry flag a-hoist in anticipation.

Its little motor reverberates at my touch –
touch, here, not only permitted,
but mandatory. Somersaulting in ecstasy,
overcome with pleasure from our connection

and the power of whim, it jumps
onto my lap to bless me with feline hugs,
divining, with god-like clarity, that even
introverts crave companionship.

Time and desire exhausted,
it turns to pursue other cat activities,
but my coo of thanks and well-wishes
draws it back for one last caress.

Then it steps beyond my reach,
sniffs at something, licks its fur
in measured nonchalance and saunters
off without a parting glance

leaving me alone again,
leaving gray fur
on my black leggings,
leaving a smile in my soul.

Home alone, embraced by lawn
and sky, birds and cat,
we made a shelter of connection.
And I made a poem.

The Woods are Teaching Me

Marlene Farrell

Leavenworth, WA

Our house is borrowed space from the pines. We are guests, going on fifteen years. So, while the
road has been quiet and our territory has shrunken to the radius of a run or a bike ride, life
continues outside our door. What does the marmot know about safe distances when she comes
close, mesmerized by her own reflection? The yearling bear cub, fur rubbed backward, no
mother to smooth it down, has thoughts of hunger, not an invisible sickness. With humans
hushed and secluded, dog’s cousin, coyote, makes frequent forays into the back woods, and once
ran grinning around an old tennis ball. Have we heard the birds? Oh, yes, they sing with delight
at their return to this valley’s abundance and the hope for new life. And for several days we
walked to the pond to listen to a frog chorus of hundreds, hidden in the cattails, their song rising
to an impossible crescendo before going still. The weight of worry, the ache of grief is ours. But
then I saw you, mother deer, almost missing you. At your feet, a fawn, like a kitten on stilts.
Brand new to this world, it melted into the grass, legs folding into oblivion. You labored
and birthed during last night’s storm. Here you are, surviving, where the sun has started to warm the
wet earth.

Image accompanying The Woods are Teaching Me
Image accompanying Counting What Counts
Counting What Counts

Grant Jones

Upper Okanogan Valley

Earth made
This place perfect for us.

This landscape we’re connected to
Has everything we needed
Rocks and trees
Lakes and rivers
Animals swimming
Flying, walking, slithering
Our community of people
Stars above
All the spirits below and
Here in the middle.

Our home place gave us
Our language and music
Our songs and poems
Stories and prayers,
All of our feelings and
She left out nothing.

We’re one not two,
Forever a continuum
Ordered but
Not divided.

And it makes me laugh and cry
Like the coyotes in the canyon…
That money won’t free us
But could actually kill us
And every living thing it’s made from.

Marking the Days

Susan Sampson

Perhaps I’ve marked each passing day in isolation
a pencil hashmark on a window sill.
Perhaps I’ve paced a line inside the chain-link fence
until the path is worn bald.
Perhaps I’ve fixed a meal of
potatoes again.
The hashmarks join the arrows
marking the sun at sunset
each solstice, each equinox.
The fence protects against the tumbleweeds
from the neighboring lot.
Maybe these changes are recent, I don’t recall
but I’ve long been known
to love potatoes.

Some Things I Really Like Right Now

Grant Jones

Upper Okanogan Valley

Guzzling cold water out of a bucket from the hand pump well.

Getting up in the morning and feeling the heat off the cook stove on my forehead.

Sipping the first two cups of coffee off the stove.

Walking around the house with the dog pack, smelling
Douglas fir smoke wreathing from the chimney.

Standing barefoot in our creek.

Smelling sagebrush crushed in my hands.

Smelling a burning smudge of sagebrush wafting through the house.

Watching clouds form up like spirits returning to the canyon above the house.

Listening to the whisper and sough of the fluttering aspen next to the window.

Following Chong’s suntanned legs up our creek.

Watching Chong nap on our hot granite bed in the afternoon.

Starting a new poem, finishing it, recrafting it again.

Sitting on a rock with a notebook and beginning a new sketch.

Enjoying that moment when the sketch says: “You’re finished.”

Sleeping in the grass with Wolfie and Luna the German Shepherds, and Dong-ee the Rottweiler.

Corresponding with Mike Robinson, creating new poems, learning from him as mentor and counselor, friend.

Laying out Okanogan Poems volume 4 on OneDrive with intrepid fellow steward and old friend, Okanogan poet, Walter Henze.

Emailing George and Patti Baumgardner about life, poetry, Earth, and the stars.

Talking with David, Hanna, and Sarah Kliegman about landscape restoration, homesteading, cooking, and trail and park making.

Emailing to Victoria Jones, Bob Goodwin, Carey Hunter, Walter Henze, George and Patti Baumgardner, Todd Thorn, Mary Koch, Dan Hulphers and Bobbie Hackett about their poems, about life and the real things that happen on the land.

Relearning the Español with my faithful neighbors and friends, Celso Pacheco-Pascacio and Carolina Ramos.

Eating never-the-same, so-called-routine breakfasts and dinners that Chong makes day after day.

Listening to Eagles concerts on YouTube with Chong.

These are some of the things I like right now.