In the Camposanto

CAMPOSANTO (2)

Padre Felipe was laid to rest in the Camposanto.
He was a good man – from just over the mountain.
Not far – He knew this place. He was one of us.
Time passes slowly and he was never in a hurry.

We came to this place, our families did, long ago.
How many generations after three hundred years?
We know the names. They, too, are in the Camposanto.
Many still live among us but our numbers are few.

Old family names are remembered there. A few new ones.
The Costa and Lopez people lie quietly together
but they never got along. Nobody remembers why.
There are a lot of stories like that.

Maria Galvez, she was really a Vigil, is all by herself.
She was married three times. She had one daughter
who married and moved to Santa Fe, in 1922, we think.
Roberto was killed in the war – it’s a long, sad story.

The Romeros always had the best sheep in the valley.
The Luceros were weavers – Antonio was the best.
If you needed anything fixed, always go see a Torres.
The best carpenters were always Medinas or Cortes

Amalia Gomez was the best baker when I was growing up.
She only had boys but taught Rosa, her daughter-in-law
(Pepito’s wife) how to bake. That Pepito had a bad
heart attack and couldn’t work much so the baking helped.

Things are a little different now. We travel farther
and we need more things than we used to. We got by
with very little when I was young. There is a WalMart
in Taos and some of us can even get stuff from Amazon.

Young people started moving away twenty years ago,
but now some come back with their own families.
We see new faces and think “Is that maybe a Lucero?
Oh, maybe that is Gilberto’s boy, Devin”.

They all turned out at the Camposanto today.
Young and old were there for Padre Felipe.
He was laid next to Padre Estevan, who rebuilt
the church. That young Father Roy did the service.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

                                     *     *     *

The Home Place – 2019

30 Hits
0 Comments

A Winter's Walk

DSCN0110 (2)

I was on an unintended winter walk
through a quiet streamside forest.
We call it a Bosque in these parts;
that’s the old Spanish name. 
I had nowhere to go and on this day,
no Frosty promises to keep.

This season has a bony feel to it
when nature is falling into sleep.
The lay of the land is discovered.
Muscle and bone are revealed
as the golden leaves fall and curl,
the grasses turn brown and brittle.

Listen, and feel, as you stray off the trail
to the crunch of the grass under your feet.
Deer tracks cross your path, just hours old,
and a large Coyote. The stream pulls them.
It never freezes over – an artery flowing even
in the coldest heart of winter.

 

DSCN0062 (2)

Nature’s engineering is exposed to those
who stop to look for it. Tree trunks display
their common design. Seed pods open to
the wind as parachutes sail off to a new life.
Grassy seed heads bend but do not break.
I pass by and scatter the seeds.

The canyon walls have specks of white.
We are in December, our coldest month,
and have had a taste of snow. It never lasts.
The sun chases it away in hours, or a day.
It lingers only where the sun can’t find it;
protected by the shade and the cold nights.

DSCN0128 (2)

The weather rules this time and place.
There is a change in the air. It seems
something Is always coming or going.
Off in the distance the clouds
trek over the mountain wall as the
winter sun turns frail and sets.

DSCN0125 (3)

     *     *     *

The Home Place – 2019 

37 Hits
1 Comment

A Pilgrim's Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To wish all American friends and colleagues a Happy Thanksgiving Day

 

A Pilgrim's Prayer

 
T hat hearth and home may
H int of heaven and
A utumn's consummation
N ourish the latent seed of Spring,
K indling a vision of that
S weeter country where
G ermination sinks deeper root and
I ndicates a perennial harvest our
V agrant span is blind to, dead to,
I mparting
N otions of perpetual
G rowth and God.
 
 
 
 
Happy_Thanksgiving_Plimoth_org.jpg - 238.57 kB           
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Twain, Poems of Earth and Ether   
Images courtesy of www.plimoth.org
149 Hits
2 Comments

The Three Pietas

“All-changing time now darkens what was bright,
Now ushers out of darkness into light” 
                                                                Horace

For much of his life, my father managed an appliance store called General Electronics at 4513 Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington DC, just up the street from American University. There's a Starbucks there now I think.

They sold primarily General Electric appliances for local residents. But a large part of their business was selling appliances for export.

In DC, this was a booming market. My father knew the procurement officers from embassies, consulates, and military posts all over the world, as well as many of the staffers from foreign embassies in DC. I remember one of the staffers from the Norwegian embassy would bring us lefse from the home country, a boyhood treat Dad craved.

I worked at the store most Saturday’s from age 12 or so, as did my three brothers. After a few years, I knew the electrical specs for pretty much every nation from Japan to Jordan. I wasn’t as introverted then and enjoyed being on the sales floor, meeting people from all over the world,  surprised to find how much they valued things I took for granted, like washing machines and refrigerators.

The General Electric company offered sales incentives, and Dad often brought home new televisions or appliances, including the microwave my mother wouldn’t use at first. But their favorite incentive was travel. GE would host trips for groups of top salesmen (I suspect back then they were all men). Often the same people would go on subsequent trips, and they made  some lasting friendships and stayed in touch long after my father retired.

So once every couple of years, my parents would fly off to Europe and other destinations that seemed so exotic to me. The world felt larger then, yet despite the nuclear threat of the cold war, somehow safer.

I don’t remember all the places they went. Paris for sure. Madrid. Mexico City (twice I think). Acapulco.  Italy. Probably others.

I could figure it out. They took hundreds of photos, now stored away in a box until I get around to digitizing. They also kept matchbooks from all their travels, and my mother bought dolls from many countries.

And they bought other souvenirs. A painting of the Madonna from Spain. A silver ring (two actually, on different trips) from a Mexican silversmith. A replica of Michelangelo’s David. And three miniature marble Pietas.

I’m guessing the Italy trip was my mother’s favorite. A devout Church-Every-Sunday-Sodality-On-Saturday-Make-Your-Children-Go-To-Sunday-School-Even-Though-Its-On-Monday Catholic, she must have been enthralled by Rome. She visited the Vatican, saw the Sistine Chapel, had an audience with the pope (John or Paul, I’m not sure which) (and I don’t mean Beatles). And bought three copies of the Pieta, Michaelangelo's statue depicting Mary holding the body of Jesus.

They are sitting side by side now in the china cabinet, with the other curios she assembled, like the girl and puppy porcelain statue I have written about elsewhere. The Pietas differ in size by maybe half an inch, and have slightly different shades of white, from snow to cream. Perhaps the color has aged, or the marble is just different.

I have often wondered why she bought three. I never thought to ask while she was alive. Did she intend them as gifts? Did she plan to give them to her four sons? (I got the David, so maybe the three Pietas were for the others, who obviously needed more spiritual help).Did she want to help the artists who carved them? Or was she just so overwhelmed by the spiritual experience?

I don’t know. I’ll never know I suppose. The three pietas will always be a mystery, unless she was right in her belief, and we will all be together someday, and I can ask her. It would be like her to think that far ahead. She was a great planner, with a wry sense of humor. I can see her smiling as she bought them, thinking of how puzzled I would be many years later.

If she was right, one day (or no day) I will know the answer. And be overwhelmed by the spiritual experience myself. 

Yet, in some sense, it is the wondering that I crave. Keats had a phrase, negative capability, the willingness to live (and create) in a state of irreducible not knowing. In a state of wonder.  

Those who reduce belief to a kind of knowing may be missing this point: the gift of wonder is the essential condition of religion, of art, maybe of sentient life, essential because it impels us forward, closer to that now unreachable truth.

So I wonder about those three pietas. I really do wonder.

1409 Hits
1 Comment

Brickwork

Laying bricks is honest work. Hard, straight forward work.
It is repetitive. You do one thing and then the next and so on.
It can almost rely on muscle memory. Almost like a rosary
or working prayer beads. That’s honest work too.
Thoughtful work. Your mind can be exploring other things.

Brick, mortar, brick, mortar, brick, mortar, repeat…
Or – mortar, mortar, mortar, brick, brick, brick…
Thoughts and ideas come and go. Worries, too.
Some are considered and rejected like misbegotten bricks
too broken or misshaped to fit the allotted place.

II

I once lived in an old brick house in an old brick city.
Almost everything was laid brick as far as you could see.
Think of all the thoughts and worries sealed up in the mortar
and the brickwork. Plans made or discarded. Acres, no, miles
of bricks and thoughts and worries all laid out in rows.

My brick house was over 100 years old. It was an honest
house built to last. A lot of thought went into that house.
It could easily stand for 100 years more on Main Street.
Built for a German family in 1904. It was solid, no frills.
Modern for its day with a cistern, wood stoves. No fireplace.

III

This was the trolley man’s family. He drove the trolley
up Main Street, many times a day. First horse drawn and
later motorized (Wonder of wonders!) He probably glanced
at his house at each passing – thinking, in German, no doubt,
of the future and the past. His wife. His kids His good fortune.

The family spoke German much of the time at home. On Sunday
they went to the German Evangelical Church and worshipped,
also, in German. The school was four doors down the street
where the kids spoke English. They were a bit rambunctious.
Their initials are still carved on the cellar joists. Ah, immortality!

The old man stayed with the trolley company. He liked doing
some mechanic work when needed. He bought an automobile,
a "machine", and built a sturdy garage for it off the back alley.
His wife made room for it among the sweet peas and the grapes.
It was a good life. He smoked his cigars, had some wine, read books.

IV

My tenure in the house came much later. Even those kids had likely
turned to dust. In all those years there were only three owners.
I moved on so now another young family lives there, with a baby.
Living alone, I can remember on quiet nights, reading in the old parlor,
I would sometimes be aware of a faint hint of the trolley man’s cigar.

The trolley man might still be there - bound up somehow in the
old bricks and mortar. If he's a happy spirit I would not be surprised.
He has a new family. Somethings change but somethings never do.
Some months before I moved away, a city crew was digging in the
street by the house and found relics of the old trolley line.

JC Trolley

 

 

 

 

     *     *     *

 

180 Hits
2 Comments

Latest Blogs

  Padre Felipe was laid to rest in the Camposanto. He was a good man – from just over the mountain. Not far – He knew this place. He was one of us...
  I was on an unintended winter walkthrough a quiet streamside forest. We call it a Bosque in these parts;that’s the old Spanish name. I had nowhe...
                                    To wish all American friends and colleagues a Happy Thanksgiving Day   A Pilgrim's Prayer ...
“All-changing time now darkens what was bright, Now ushers out of darkness into light”                                                                ...
Laying bricks is honest work. Hard, straight forward work. It is repetitive. You do one thing and then the next and so on. It can almost rely on muscl...

Latest Comments

Stephen Evans A Winter's Walk
09 December 2019
Enjoyed the clarity of the writing, Ken.
Rosy Cole A Pilgrim's Prayer
01 December 2019
When working with children years ago, I created many acrostics. Most had the keyword somewhere down ...
Rosy Cole The Three Pietas
01 December 2019
Your penultimate paragraph sums it up well, that Life consists in faith, belief, in sheer creative i...
Stephen Evans A Pilgrim's Prayer
30 November 2019
I learned a new work today - acrostic - this is a good one!https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrostic
Ken Hartke Brickwork
05 November 2019
It caught me by surprise the first time I noticed it. After the trolley man, the house was owned by...