this poem contains a bird

this poem contains a bird
– or perhaps two –

being circumspect things,
they perch first upon
the edge of the gutter
above my head

to survey the wood-slatted,
peeled-paint valley
of the porch below –
seed on the other side

and if I am still enough,
and if I do not move
from my hidden roost
of the door frame,

they will brave the gap
– landing in tandem –
and allow me to write them

© Sarah Whiteley

certainty from a garden

tonight, there is more color
rising in the leaves
of the vine maple
than there was
just this morning

of this I am certain

just as I am certain
that when I brush the tops
of the tomato plants,
they will smell
like tomato plants

certain also that
the white cabbage butterfly
will choose to light upon
the curls of kale
over the wild mustard greens

and that when the chickadees
fly deeper into
the darkening branches
of the cottonwood,
this day will end

of this I am certain

© Sarah Whiteley

touching bottom

I cannot keep these days from sinking –
thirty-four years away, I awake
to the smell of lake water
and its soft slaps against the poles
of the dock, the wood on aluminum
of oars caught in oarlocks

three and more decades gone, and I know
with certainty that the lake bottom
is still sandy, and that at twilight,
two loons will arrive – carved from
a perfect summer night – to begin their calls
with rising chortles pulled into those
longer notes that seek out our edges,
indistinguishable from the edges of the sky

thirty-four years back, I might return
and instruct that wide-eyed summer self
to plant her heart in that space,
where it might quietly wait with the pines,
with the dry sighs of summer grasses,
and the smooth leaves of the wintergreen –
for some other sun-quivering July day,
when her feet can touch bottom again

© Sarah Whiteley

The Fish Pond Cottage Book of Days

Where has Sarah been? Well to be honest, writing anything lately has been a bit of a challenge – and one that I’ve been a little too ready to avoid. That just didn’t feel right, so I’ve found a way to gently ease back into the writing waters. I’ve begun keeping a sort of “book of days” – 5 minutes of writing (strictly about the house, yard, garden, trees, etc.) and a 5 minute sketch with my watercolor pencils and ink. It’s just a simple way to mark the days in this new space of mine (and keep writing at least something) until I am ready to dive back into poetry.

I will share a few of my Fish Pond Cottage Book of Days entries here and there in between catching up with the many, many writing blogs I’ve neglected recently. I look forward to reading what I’ve missed!

Keep safe! ❤

different minds

a neighbor stands in his yard
and bemoans roads – says
he prefers wilderness
and dogs, and rails now
against the HOA and their
six brains thinking as one

but after a few too many,
wields his weed whacker –
one-handed against any blade
rising higher than some
arbitrary regulation height

we watch from my dandelions –
the dogs, the yellow cedar, and I –
different minds entirely

© Sarah Whiteley

the question

I cannot say to you
that it is deep spring –
that now when I walk
at the outset of night,
the fields are thick
with frog song

I cannot tell you
that those long talks
under the porch light
were the best moments,
and saved me many times
from myself

you are not here
to hear that these
are also the best moments,
living among the worst –

and that “yes”
would be the answer
if you’d ask again
whether I am happy

but you are not here
to ask the question,
and I am petal-deep
in memories

© Sarah Whiteley

On Easter Sunday, I lost a very dear friend to cancer. We lost him quickly, and because of our current situation, I was unable to hug him one more time in farewell. He was truly the kindest, most generous person I’d ever met. He was thoughtful, and compassionate, and gently pushed others towards compassion. I never got the chance to tell him how his presence in my life changed me for the better – saved me even. For years, he would ask me the question “are you happy?” and for years my answers fell somewhere between “well, you know” and “I’m okay” followed by a shrug. This man who genuinely cared whether or not I was happy never had the chance to hear that I was. I am finally in a space where I have room to breathe, where I am safe, where daily I can walk among trees, where I can feel some peace. And a lot of that is due to this one person who cared enough to help me ask myself what it is exactly that would make me happy. So thank you, dear Leo. I am happy. ❤

the consolation

I could not save
the goldfinch
from drowning –

for years now,
the memory
has persisted

frail the feathers,
bright the dazzle
of sun on the water

logic tells me
he was dying
regardless

and his death,
the gift of a day
that remains

© Sarah Whiteley

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes we are presented with an opportunity which drives us in a direction opposite from our original intentions. The choice to jump in one direction or the other can result in unlooked for changes. For the time being, my heart has told me to set Colorado aside and to stay where I am to see what comes of a rediscovered love. Rest assured that I am both happy and hopeful jumping in this particular direction.

In other news, PBS American Portrait reached out to me recently on Twitter and asked if I would consider sharing. And so I did, submitting under the category “My greatest challenge is…” I hope that you will take a moment read what I’ve chosen to share, and also consider sharing your own story as well as browsing through the many wonderful thoughts that others have shared.

I don’t often speak of my struggles with anxiety and depression, but they are very real parts of my life. Hiking has become a way of coming home to myself – a way of finding peace when nothing else has worked. I felt like it was important enough to share, knowing that others face the same daily battles.

With much love and appreciation,
Sarah

the accordion

whether the accordion stays or goes
becomes a matter of friendship –
and of the necessity or needlessness
of tokens of attachment

a heavy load can make for a longer road,
and other favors await a verdict –
whether box or bin, either out or in,
feeling and hand both hesitate

though the heart of the gift remains whole
in spite of this inquest –
true affection demands no keepsakes,
and gathers no dust on its bellows

© Sarah Whiteley

I am in the midst of downsizing for the big move next month. I find the days sliding by at an alarming rate, with still so much to do. It will all get done, I am certain – after much hard work and lots of letting go of the things I truly do not need. Whether the accordion makes the move with me? I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂