Grace, for the Autumnal Equinox

To celebrate the Autumnal Equinox I give you "Grace," a seasonal poem by Wendell Berry, read by my very talented brother Matt Burns. You can find more poetry recordings and his beautiful voice at his site SunVolume.

Click here to hear him read "Grace." You can also see the transcription below. Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Wendell.


The Wood is shining this morning.
Red. Gold and green. The leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is.  Running or walking, the way
is the same.  Be still.  Be still.
He moves your bones 
and the way is clear.

~ Wendell Berry


First Music Concerts

This past weekend, my Dad took his 10-year-old granddaughter Fiona to her first concert: Taylor Swift. Her parents gave Fiona the two tickets months ago on her birthday and she chose her Boompa (as the grandkids all call him) to join her. I think for each of them individually, it was the best gift ever.

My Dad took me to my first concert too:  The Beach Boys at Husets Speedway in Brandon, South Dakota. I don't remember how old I was, possibly in junior high. To this day I still love the Beach Boys. That happy memory started a conversation with my Dad and siblings about the first shows he took them to...

For my older brother Patrick it was: "The Grateful Dead, Dylan and Tom Petty show at the Metrodome was in 1986 when I would have been 15 or 16.  I went to see Loverboy and Rick Springfield with some St. Mary’s friends at the Arena prior to that - - and likely other shows. Romantics at the Roof Garden's last concert was very memorable. Happy to still be alive and that the floor did not cave in.  It was moving like a trampoline."

My little sister Mary Ellen said, "Garth Brooks for my 10th birthday! We ate at Chi-Chi's and I wore pink cowboy boots and had a cowgirl shirt with fringe on the front. I wore a necklace that was a bubble holder with a wand. I was so cool. Martina McBride opened."

Dad added: "I also have great memory of scoring sold out Garth Brooks tickets from an Arena board member for Mary Ellen's birthday. 11th? 12th? Concert at Arena. Mom and she went together and loved it!"

My younger brother Matthew wrote: "My first was Son Volt with Patrick at 1st Ave when I was 12, then Smashing Pumpkins at the arena a month or two later. And then a few weeks after that dad dropped me off for my first all ages show at the Pomp Room! I remember being embarrassed that he walked around to check it all out but in the end he let me stay. Thanks Dad!"

When asked about his first concert, my Dad said: "First ones I remember were Beach Boys at Shore Acres ballroom in Sioux City. A place like Arkota. Saw the Byrds ( singing the Dylan covers they had hits with - Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn Turn Turn) at Sioux Falls coliseum. The Mitchell Trio at USD.  Name was changed from Chad Mitchell trio. Chad was replaced by then with a new guy....John Denver. Also saw Peter Paul & Mary at USD when I was a senior in high school. Folk music and civil rights superstars."

That's my Dad.


September 11th

Where were you when you heard the terrible news the Twin Towers in Manhattan had been, unbelievably, hit and then were, inconceivably, collapsing?

I was driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge on my daily commute to Napa. I was listening to the radio when I heard the news America was under attack. I felt suddenly terrified to be on that bridge. That day was scary and surreal for everyone. I was reeling from my boyfriend announcing the night before that he was moving out, leaving our two year relationship. I had woken up alone that morning, crying already, thinking of our past and my future alone. My world was crashing down around me. Then a few hours later, watching the news when I arrived at my office, the world was physically crashing down. Perspective set in: the innocent lives lost, the monstrous plans carried out by misguided fanatics. My broken heart opened up and I cried not just for my personal life, but for family and friends in New York, fellow Americans and the wide world of humanity teeming with unknowable passions. My older brother Patrick was in the military, my younger brother almost old enough to be drafted. Would we go to war? Surely. All my life I'd felt safe while wars, genocide, bombs, atrocities happened in other far away places. Everything changed overnight. In the aftermath of the tragedy, my boyfriend moved back in and we clung to each other for a few weeks, before separating permanently. Both of us, along with the rest of the country, began rebuilding our lives.


The Art of Fledging

For Labor Day Weekend, we took a road trip down to the Three Capes Scenic Drive along the Oregon Coast. Christian and I had been here the second summer we were dating. What a time warp to come back here seven years later with our two kids. We camped at Cape Lookout State Park and set up for hours on the endless beach to build sandcastles, splash, nap, read, picnic and watch all the gray whale action - uncountable breaching, double breaching, full breaching, tail slaps, blows. We found tiny sand dollars and jellyfish on the sand. We pointed out the Big Dipper to Xavier as we roasted marshmallows around a campfire. We spent a rainy morning in Pacific City at Cape Kiwanda having breakfast at the Grateful Bread Bakery, a long and misty beach walk afterwards. The third day, up to Cape Meares Lighthouse to watch more whales and enjoy another big beach day at Oceanside. A quick fix of Portland and then the drive home, the kids sandy and sacked out in the back seat.

The Art of Fledging

     ~ Found Poem, Cape Meares Lighthouse

To jump or to fly?
Seabird chicks have two choices
when they are ready to leave the nest:
jump or fly.
Some species jump,
most take their first flight.

Fledging is different for each species.
Some species fledge earlier than others.
Common murres, for example,
leave the nest when they are about 21
days old,
while Leach's storm-petrels
fledge after they're 70
days old.
Some join waiting parents
who feed them at sea
for some time,
while others must fend for themselves.
Most species fledge late
at night or at dusk to avoid predators.

Jumpers, like common murres,
cannot fly when they leave. Tiny,
3-week old murre chicks leap
from the tops of rocks and cliffs,
gliding down to the water on their stubby
little wings.
Some fall onto the rocks below and
Once at sea, the chicks join their father who, alone,
cares for them at sea for another 6 to 8 weeks.

Fliers include marbled murrelets,
who probably fly from their inland
nest directly to the sea.
Two days before fledging,
murrelet chicks have been observed
back and forth,
frequently and vigorously
flapping their wings, and
peering over the edge
of the nest site.
And they looked nervous.


And Suddenly Butterflies Everywhere


     ~ For Dewey Huston

Tell me again about the butterflies,

old friend of my father, bringer of tales,
the gully, mossy rocks of the streambed,
a cool breeze off the glacier high above,
and suddenly butterflies everywhere
as if the air you breathed were blossoming.

I've seen so many things, you said. I wish 
I could write them down. And when my brother died
you were the alpinist and engineer
who had an explanation where he'd gone,
waving a hand in air. It's energy,
you said. That energy must still be somewhere.

Ah, but the real life is never written down,
and who could understand the butterflies--
that there were so many, so surprisingly?
Tell me again, old friend, and I will try
to catch the light, the flavor of the air
like moss, like distant ice, like clear water.

~ David Mason