Tuesday, November 29, 2011

House Like a Wheel (apologies to Anna McGarrigle)

What if a house were like a wheel?
How would that be any different from the way things are?
Your days would begin level enough
But then as the sun rose, imperceptibly
(Except for that one moment--which
You only catch on the rare days
When you are actually paying
attention--when the blushing dawn
quite suddenly turns the lights on),
as the day goes on
the shift.

Regularly, as you look up,
you notice that you're turning,
And it's even quite pleasant at first
Maybe it's just a gentle rocking,
and the pendulum will swing back the other way.
(Surely it will swing back, won't it?)

You rest in this denial,
Or rather, you think you are resting,
Until the dishes have crashed to the floor
And the laundry escapes its confines
in the dryer
and is replicating its experience
all over the bedrooms.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Does The Fox Say?

What does the fox say?
"I'm gonna get you!"
What does the rabbit say?
"No you won't. I'm too fast."
What does the tiger say?
"No matter how much I eat, I am always hungry."
What does the lion say?
"It's lonely at the top."
What does the Queen say?"
"I'm so tired of taking care of everyone. When will someone take care of me?"
What does the King say?
"Mistakes were made."
What does the deer say?
" ."

By Nerissa and Johnny Nields-Duffy
Nov. 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011


The last time I saw you
You were the girl next door and
I was the town Bohemian
I'd pegged you for a beauty queen
And I was right.
But I could not see your real beauty.

The last time I saw you
I wore a fat suit
That was more than a joke
Less than a lark
Intended to be
A slight of hand
A slide on a banana peel
My destiny, not yours
To spend the rest of my life
Walking with care
Not to slip again.

You gave me a voice
You gave me a hand
You ringed me in
You championed me

She did too, but in a different way.

She came in sideways, through the side door
So sweetly goofy
I couldn't possibly deny her.
Like a puppy who decides who her owner is
She chose me and I let her.

And then she began to work on me.
"That beauty queen, that beauty queen
I do not like that beauty queen.
Look, how our skin turns green
When we stand beside her.
She says she wants to be your friend
But to what end? It can't be real.
You and I should make a deal
Agree to walk right off the field."

And so I did. I walked right off,
But she didn't follow.

This straight I have visited before.
Each time I leap to capture the disc
they cheer, and I feel complete,
(Perhaps the way you did at the beauty contest?)
But presently I live in fear of losing it.
I grip it ever more tightly in my hands.
And what good is a discus unless you toss it?

So I am back on the field.
Now I will play.
Now I will sing with you.
Now I will leave behind the voices
--and let's face it, they are my own--
that leer at beauty
that do not trust it
That can not see it reflected in themselves.

I should never have been envious of you.
Your beauty was my beauty
As the rose lifts us all up
As we lose ourselves in its gaze.

Finding God

It used to be
The way to God
Was up a tree
Feeling the bark against
New palms
Hoisting torso
Over limbs
Spread eagle
At the top
Swaying in the breeze
Nearer to Thee.

Now I find You
As I sweep the floor
In this crumb
In that tumbleweed
In the careful collecting
Of all the debris
I cup my palm around my cull
And carry it to the compost pile
Where it will find its way in again.
We always do.
Nerissa Nields
Nov. 16, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Last Time You Were Here

The last time you were here
You were driving on highway five in California
Trying not to smell the cities of cattle
Fetid and groaning with institutional dharma.
He was riding shotgun
And you wanted him clean of it.
“Look over here,” you said, pointing to the birds, to the west, to the ocean.
But he turned and saw
And you could not offer an explanation.

You stopped in a small town
Hoping the flowers would distract him.
You found a salon and got a hair cut
Which made you look like your sister.
You left the hair on the cutting room floor.

Over lunch, you told him about the time
You were on the fifty-first floor
Washing your hands at a sink
This was when you were in a wheelchair
The bathroom had no walls
And the drop was a roll of the dice away.
He said, “You were lucky. But why do you take such risks? Stay here next time.“
And later, after mouths full of chicken cooked in wine with artichokes and olives,
“Did you save your hair? It’s good luck to save your hair.”
You kissed him goodbye and got back into the car and kept driving south
Cresting a hill, there was the snow shimmering off the mountain
Larger than life
Larger than Hollywood
So large it might be all a dream
Or a film
Or the afterlife
And you turned around, back to town,
To convince him to come with you,
That this time it didn’t have anything to do with luck.

Nerissa Nields
November 14, 2012

Monday, November 07, 2011

October Snowstorm

It's one of the many paradoxes of life that by the time we really become convinced that we want to--need to--change, it's too late. Not to be a downer; but I couldn't help but think this way during the aftermath of Halloween weekend. A freak snow storm caused massive power outages and caused me to wish my species hadn't wrecked the planet, and also that I had solar panels, a generator and a CO2 friendly wood stove.

Like so many in New England, we awoke the morning of Oct. 30 to a cold house on a brilliantly beautiful day. We'd watched the kids catching snowflakes with their tongues the afternoon before, and at the time, the snow seemed benign, albeit unseasonal.

Fun! A snowstorm in October! And our new gas stove worked, at least the burners did, so tea (caffeine) was had by the grown ups in the house, which meant all was well. We'd signed up to run in a Halloween 5K, so we bundled up and drove downtown after enjoying a warm microwave-less breakfast. So far so good.

But Northampton was dark, even at 10am. The traffic lights were out and the big clock downtown was black. The roads were flooded with dirty snow, and the parking lot where the race was supposed to start was empty. Our cell phones only kind of worked. Not to be deterred completely, we parked and got out the double jogging stroller and pushed it through the slush, thinking we'd get some warm beverages at a coffee shop. But nothing was open. Tom turned back with the kids, and I jogged toward home, trying to get some intel on the ground, passing by my friend Margaret's house to see if her party was still happening that night. I found her and her husband shoveling out their driveway. She is a major activist for climate change; yesterday she joined a group of protesters who circled the White House to protest the TransCanada pipeline--she's serious. It seemed so ironic that her party would be cancelled by a freakish climate-change-induced snowstorm. She was the very person I wanted to be with that day, so I was glad at least that I got to give her a hug and wish her good luck.

I came across my friends Liz and Kris digging out Liz's driveway and learned from them how serious the damage was, that we might be in the cold and dark for days, even weeks. I invited them over for lunch, since I had burners, after all--one does want to share when one finds oneself in a situation like this. As I walked home, my mind kept leaping to fearful conclusions. Weeks! Dark! Cold! WEEKS! Kids not in school! COLD! But I kept reminding it that right now, I was just jogging in the snow. Right now, I had hot water and gas burners. Right now, I had a cell phone that sometimes worked. And soon I had a text from my sister in Conway saying she had heat and power, and to come on up for the night.

So we did; we packed as if we were going to be gone for a week. We took all the food in our fridge and freezer and all our computers and iPads and cell phones and favorite stuffed animals and decamped. Katryna made pizza, Kris cuddled my kids, the kids thought they'd died and gone to heaven, and later Dave Hower's family joined us. We were warm and snug, having a mini Nields reunion. The next morning, with Patty joining us from cold/dark Easthampton, the adults had five computers going around the dining room table, each of us checking FaceBook obsessively, and occasionally communicating with each other via FaceBook instead of across the table, and also barking at the kids to turn off their screens.

Our power, we soon learned from FaceBook friends/neighbors, came on about 10am and we left Conway in the early afternoon to go home and dress up for the Halloween that was officially canceled. Elle was a Ghost/Pirate/Unicorn/Vampire, and Jay was a Kirby Car driver (AKA Herbie the Love Bug--see photos below). I was Janis Joplin and Tom was a Garden Variety Victim (Tom's costume every year is some variation on a particular American flag bandana and fake blood). We set out bravely but as soon as we rounded the corner, we saw why the town had canceled Halloween. Downed trees and power lines made sidewalk travel impossible and impassible, and so we put Kirby in the back of Tom's truck and visited exactly two houses.

The aftermath has been harder than the actual storm. There is a reason it's not supposed to snow on Halloween. Our trees still have most of their leaves, so when the snow fell (18 inches, 27 inches, three feet in some parts), the canopy couldn't hold it, but couldn't drop it either. So the branches bent, and the branches broke. The sight of all these broken trees is more and more disturbing to me with the passing days; the limbs will never grow back. Great beauties all over town are torn beyond recognition. I have this fear that with each bizarre storm we will lose more parts of the trees until eventually we'll just have shards and stumps. I keep hearing stories about trees crashing into houses, into bedroom windows where moms were reading to their kids, into metal roofs like huge accusing fingers. Walking home on the bike trail a few days ago, I saw downed trees with their branches fingering the earth, reminding me of the yoga pose vasistasana. No one holds a yoga pose for long. We are putting too much stress on our trees, asking too much of them. They didn't sign up for this climate.

Even as I fret about our trees, I am contemplating getting a wood stove. At least then I could put all the broken limbs to some use (to me.) But with Jay's asthma, it might not be a good thing. Not to mention the carbon we'd be putting in the air--which is why we have this freak October snow storm to begin with.

How do we consume less? How do we change our ways? Even if it is too late, I want to change, partly out of penance, and partly out of respect. So I pulled my neglected bike out of the barn and have been riding it. Today I took Jay to school, with him crowded into the baby seat in the back. He loved it. "Oh, wook at dose twees, Mama," I heard him say from his perch behind me. "Dey fell down." I dropped him off at school only to find that it was once again Halloween (we've had many make-up Halloweens), and so I handed the teacher his bike helmet and told her to cover it with aluminum foil so he could reprise his role as Kirby Car driver, this time sans vehicle. And then I biked off, meandering around our neighborhood to see how folks were doing. We all seem a lot closer now, more necessarily connected. And I have a feeling it's going to become more that way in the future.

Readers: What were your experiences in the storm? What can we do to put fewer fossil fuels into the air, use less? Should we invest in solar panels? Generators? Wood stoves? Where do you see glimmers of hope in the climate battle?