Passage Without Rites (1999)


Homing, inshore, from far off-soundings.
Night coming on. Sails barely full.

The wind,

in its dying, too light to lift us against
the long ebb.

My two fingers, light

on the tiller, try to believe I feel
the turned tide.

Hard to tell. Maybe,

as new currents pressure the rudder,
I come to sense

the keel beginning

to shape the flow of the sea. Deep
and aloft, it’s close

to dark.

No stars yet. Only the risen nightwind,
as we tack into its warmth,

tells us

we’ll make our homeport. Strange,
angling into the dark,

to think

how a mainsail’s camber reflects
the arc of the keel,

their dynamics

reversing whenever we tack.
You call from below,

hand up coffee,

check the glow of the compass, and
raise an eye to Arcturus,

just now

beginning to shine. All over again,
all over, our old bodies


the old mysteries: the long night
still to go, small bow-waves


a little nachtmusik; stars beyond stars
flooding our inmost eyes.

And voices,

now, come out of the dark,
deeply sounding our own.


~ Philip Booth



At a place called Earth Sanctuary on Whidbey Island. It’s a privately owned nature reserve and retreat center “dedicated to healing nature and the human spirit.” The owner is practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. Strangely enough — or perhaps not? — this place is weirdly peaceful.


A Year

It’s been a year, a full year since Colorado. Hmm. It seems no longer than the blink of an eye. Also, it seems like a lifetime ago.





That’s what summer was like. Don’t you remember?


Suddenly, all those empty hours. You woke into nothing much — no dread of the coming school day, no pell-mell scramble to get ready to leave the house. Instead, chirping of birds and intimation of cool air. Your mother downstairs on the phone: obscure words, silence, more words. Where did you need to be? Nowhere. What should you be doing? Nothing. And for the moment, at least, who were you, really? No one, if being someone meant that you couldn’t lie on your side staring at the wall, loose-limbed, your thoughts skimming. From that last dream you’d had, in which you’d stopped running and finally turned to face the horror behind you, only to have it fade and vanish. To that girl whose crooked smile laid you bare, whose glinty eyes made you ache. To the places you might wander later that day, with never a thought the entire time for anyone who might be wondering what you were doing, with whom you were doing it, and whether you were safe and sound.



Edward Hopper, “Cape Cod Morning” (1950)


Cutoff blue jeans and sneakers. Fingers streaked with oil from a bike chain that wouldn’t stay on its sprocket. For you, the frayed world of humdrum workdays and commonplace tragedies didn’t yet exist. Everything was known, but nothing was familiar. The cracks in the pavement were a map to a secret kingdom. The darkness under the trees told a story. You were like a wayfarer in an ancient land, where nature itself had a numinous power to alter everything,  for unknowable reasons or for no reason at all.



Edward Hopper, “Gas” (1940)


In those summers, you were naked to the world and full of expectation. There was more, of course, much more to come. And because there was more, the thinness of the present moment was an empty jar, into which you could happily pour the itchy scab on your knee, the sourness of a ripening blackberry, the magazine photos of girls in bikinis. Nothing was especially important, nothing unimportant. Your life was your own. And if you had paused to consider, your life would have seemed to you to be a possession so precious that surely, somewhere out there, burned an immense star with your name on it, lighting and warming the black void of interstellar space.



Edward Hopper, “Eleven A.M.” (1926)


That’s what summer was like, back in those bygone days.



Like Light on the Sleeping Land & Sea

© 2013 Richard T. Walker “The Proximity of Longing”


On these hot May days, I often get caught in an eddy of thought. Each rhyming revolution, flow and counterflow, carries me closer and closer to … something. At the last moment, just before translation from this into that, I’m released. Let go into the iron grip of the river. Know what that feels like? Like powerful arms, ropy with muscle, wrapping themselves around you.


The whitewater guide shouts at the swimmer, “Flip onto your back! Get your face out of the water! Point your feet downstream!”


So there I am, you can imagine, my eyes filled with sky, listening to an adrenaline rush of blood in my ears. (more…)

Something You Don’t Want to Hear

Writer/editor William Maxwell by Nigel Parry


I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear. (more…)

Five Quick Takes 4.10.17

  1. Ten percent of all supposedly funny people are responsible for ninety percent of all genuine, laugh-out-loud humor.
  2. A lesson I will never learn: it’s almost never me. It’s almost always the other person. Nothing I did, nothing I failed to do. Just an individual who’s having a bad day or a bad life.
  3. The benefits of global climate change are overrated.
  4. Why is it that Jehovah’s Witnesses will walk by my house, see me on the front porch or in the yard, and just keep on walking? Oh, wait, I forgot about #2 again. Sigh.
  5. Remember, as a farmer once told Flannery O’Connor, her mother, and my own mother: if you ever want to give a chicken a good time, just throw it up in the air.



Cartoon by Adam Katzenstein, in The New Yorker.