Nature in tandem, aiding and abetting,
Waves smooth as the bodies that chase them,
Perfect symmetry drawn in ocean combers,
And all there is is this moment.
Diet of fish and fruit rendered my body spacious,
Boneless like a jellyfish,
Flesh swimming in skin sun-kissed,
Mermaid hair blonde, waving,
One with the water, anticipating,
Interpreting the swell,
Hop up on the board and let nature propel
Me down the mouth of a blue roaring barrel.
“Let go, let God,”
Letting nature take over,
She shoots me down a perfect comber.
Traveling at the speed of sound,
The world slows down,
And for a moment in the wave
I’m in a frozen glacial cave. 
Shady cover from lusty sun’s tan,
She spits me out like a one-night stand.
What a thrill– I need another
And go back like an abusive lover.
Having tasted euphoria in the green room,
Enlightenment in the break…
If there is a heaven,
I know it’s got waves.

 Wind’s hands reach
with fingers of amber leaves,
grasping for the deer that
disappears into the night

When does a deer become a pet? When you start to feed him apples? When he comes around regularly enough to earn a name?

It’s deer-hunting season, so I’m surprised he still comes back.

“He looks tasty.” My husband licks his lips.

Don’t even think about it, my eyes shoot back.

The deer and I are kindred spirits – solitary, quiet, we prefer leaves to meat. We both have widely spaced eyes. (The better to watch out for predators, they say.)

My spirit animal comes to visit us nightly, undeterred by the hostile wind that spits leaves like popcorn and men toting rifles. The mechanical monsters with headlights for eyes that occasionally snake down our dirt road have not scared him off.

I ask the children what we should call him. They have already named the resident seal at Nana’s house “No” and the porcupine “Yes”. Recently No brought by a friend to visit; they called her “Not”. I’m wondering if this deer will be called “Maybe”.

Fall gusts snatch the coffee right out of my cup, splattering it all over my coat. My ghost-like reflection spooks me in the mirror. The wind that promises me a bad hair day slams the door back in my face, telling me to stay home. It smells of snow. Yet the buck comes back to steal leaves off trees and fatten up for winter, knowing that the bright white will soon blanket all in its peaceful slumber.

With luck he’ll live to see it.

He crept in quietly, like a chameleon.

His lingering kisses took me on a voyage, told a story, with crescendos and denouements.

Usually he chased the sun in one of his rebuilt engines or on one of his many motorcycles, but he hit the brakes when with me.

Smooth, I thought he was water. But in reality, he was fire. He never met a blaze he didn’t love, and he raised it to the high heavens.

It was best not to carry matches around him, best to stay on his good side. He was fuel-injected, his engines modified.

His bonfires were so big they burned your legs, then your back when you walked away. Then he poured gasoline on them.

With others he was a bomb, an ax to grind.

But with me he was soft, spongy moss on the rain forest floor, slowly filling my spaces. Breaths like mist between my trees.

As long as I stayed on the soft side of his blade.

Photo: Maxim Tajer on Unsplash

Time

In the woods

Does not go by appointments

Or schedules or to-do’s–

Time goes by the

Lengthening of shadows,

The quickening of the breeze,

The warming of the sun,

The melting of the ice.

Bellies rumbling,

Freckles encroaching.

Time is not sand through an hourglass–

It is sand eroded off the riverbank,

The falling of leaves and

Blossoming of buds,

Thoughts dissipating like clouds.

I used to feel sorry for the birds that only lived a few years,

But a day in the woods is a month in a world of to-do’s

And four walls,

Now so far away.

As water bottles lighten and boys mark their territories,

The shadows chase the sun and catch up to the moon.

Time ebbs and flows downstream,

Captured in river rocks toted home in my daughter’s backpack,

Sunshine in her pink cheeks.

In the morning, we take our paddleboards out over sleepy Auke Bay, still peaceful in her slumber, before the whale watching boats stir her up. The water is so clear you can see the bottom of the ocean. The gentle sun, low on the horizon, warms the salty air. For a moment I worry I might add another line to my face today, a face that resembles a map of where I’ve been, but then I remember that each one is a token, a souvenir, an adventure.

We glide over to check our friend Rocky, where my four-year-old daughter disembarks, summits the barnacle inhabited crag, and calls out: “I am queen of the mountain!”She insists on swimming out to me on my paddleboard, which floats over the water like a feather on a breath. One small movement can send her spiraling off into the deep or cutting into the rocks. Each slice into the water incites ripples that continue until they break on the shore miles away. 

Paddling like a puppy churning up the placid bay, she arrives at my board and crawls on. A humongous salmon jumps up and plops next to us, clearly enjoying the hushed morning. My son, yellow and gray like a canary in his wetsuit, soaks up the rays on his back while fully submerged in the water. Is he sleeping? 

“Are you alive?!”I call to him. In his blissed out state he does not respond until I holler, “Hey look, there’s No!”

The resident seal always comes when he hears the children’s voices. And look, now he’s playing peekaboo with us, popping his head up, then disappearing into the deep. My yellow canary son chases him on his paddleboard until they are just a few feet apart and engaged in the most epic staring contest.

At this point my daughter has already jumped off the board and is swimming towards the shore, just to prove to herself that she can.

The sun warms my face. Not to worry, I tell myself, I remembered sunblock today, fragrant like honeysuckle under the warming sun’s rays.

Photo: Kelly Renouf Sorensen

(A Reverse Poem)

By Amy Pinney

He is simply a problem causer
it’s preposterous that
he is also gentle and playful
it’s no surprise
being a shaggy-throated intellectual
his side glances
we will continue to discuss
sandwich-stealing and mimicry
being more significant than
his guidance and teaching
I think it’s true
his link between ocean and trees
but we should not question
the crows’ warnings
the hungry, mischievous raiders
of their robbing and fighting
I won’t be persuaded
to trust this protector
because
he is conniving
and it’s a lie
he is symbiotic with wolf and bear
it is evident that
he is an unfriendly trickster
and foolish of us to think
he is an unfaltering spirit
and all of this is true unless we reverse it.
 
(Now read from bottom to top)
 

photo: Dani Nicole Photography

Breeze exhales in your left ear. Inhale sea spray. Hot sun consumes the thick jungle and complexions, varnishing the lucky ones until they sparkle. Your body, boneless, slithers into a hammock. Shadows of palm fronds dance over bare legs, chased by sunbeams. Toenails resemble pink shells in the sand.

Ocean waves wash through your lungs, salty. Exhale peace.  

Foreign words babble like water over river rocks and splash with a laugh into a turquoise pool. Isn’t that all you really need to understand? 

Soldier ants the size of your fingernail march in single file toward a tropical plant, returning along the same trajectory with chunks of red and orange leaves the size of your pinky. The tree will be gone within the hour.

No one in a rush. Pura vida. Pure life.

Steam emanating from the black sand begins to suffocate your skin until you feel you might burst like the chicharra. 

Rrrrrrrrrrr…. POP!

Only the lushest of rains can quench the thirst. You feel your skin squeeze, the black steam casting its spell, breathing is heavy. You don’t know if you can stand it anymore… until the sky breaks open and releases, sweet reprieve. 

Shhhhhh…..

Rain drops dance off palm fronds and corrugated tin roofs, sounding like a steel pan symphony. Broad banana leaves cocoon you through the downpour as the powerful aroma of flowers overtake your senses. Everything is glowing electric green.

And as quickly as it came, the rain moves on. You can see it darkening the dirt path just a few feet away. Sun returns hot, its lust unabated. 

A young figure with a back like a chestnut climbs a coconut tree and disappears into the canopy. A green ovoid coconut drops from the tree, plop! Followed by another, and then another. Man versus nature… 

Climbing down, he slices off the top of the coconut with a skinny machete. Man wins! 

“Así,” he says – like this, and he takes a swig from the young fruit then passes it to you. You put your lips against the small hole in the smooth green ovoid, tilting the bottom up. Sweet coconut juice charges your limp body, bringing you back to life and out of your lazy repose. You join him in the lowering sun, gentle like a lover’s embrace. 

Late afternoon sun tickles your skin until you smell like baked bread. For a second two scarlet macaws eclipse the sun’s rays, flashing brilliant vermillion and cobalt blue tails like arrows. As fervent heat surrenders to a gentle breeze, howler monkeys begin their posturing. Guttural iterations ring throughout the forest, sending frightened kittens running for cover. Untamed, wild, the jungle maintains its sovereignty. 

Photo: mapsdecostarica.info

Real talk

Costa Rica is practically paradise on earth. More than 25 per cent of their land is protected – the highest in the world. As a world leader in conservation, and in an effort to preserve the natural beauty and surroundings, 25% of their rainforests, tropical dry forests, cloud forests, marine areas, and wetlands has been set aside and turned into protected parks and reserves. 

photo: Rebloggy

Their citizens enjoy free healthcare, free preschool, and top-notch education (their literacy rate at 94.4% is much higher than the U.S.’ 86%). The most common refrain in Costa Rica is pura vida, meaning pure life, and can mean hello, thank you, you’re welcome, good-bye, and very good. 

The culture is so peaceful that when I lived there in 2001 even the police didn’t carry guns. They have no standing army. 

It is a very progressive and egalitarian society; the rich hobnob with the poor, but nobody really knows the difference when everyone’s wearing board shorts and sandals. Many women own businesses, although as an American woman business owner in Costa Rica, few took me seriously but deferred to my male partners. Voting day is a national holiday. The whole family goes out to vote, and the government throws parties and concerts at polling places. 

Costa Rica is pura vida, indeed.

Art by Solignia Arellano

Wildfires wrapped me in their hazy cocoon yesterday.
Muffled all sounds and thoughts like a cold,
Like the eerie quiet of underwater. Orange sun transformed my living room into a glass of Tang. 

A parliament of eagles vied for salmon guts on the beach, chasing off the ravens over daisies and seaweed. Quarreling ravens forced out a few of their own in a screaming cacophony. Five scouts set off in precise fighter jet formation. Peace granted again.

My daughter returned from the beach smelling like wild mint. “I saw a moving rock!” she said. “A moving rock – what is she talking about?” The beach remained frozen in time.

Suddenly a rock became a porcupine and hobbled along the water’s edge.
Dinner fit for a mermaid of garlic shrimp and beach asparagus transported me back to Costa Rica, if just for a moment.

Out in front, a mama orca taught her two babies to hunt while Daddy long-fin kept watch in the distance. 

At 9:45 P.M., the wildfire sun glowed hot pink above the horizon, marking June’s finale in a brilliant exclamation point.

Photo: Kerry Howard

June lupine blooms
Cocoon Juneau in hues
Of lavender and blue,
Cormorant and loon attune 
To swoon of spring —
None are immune.
Whispers rise and fall
Soft like balloons
Under the loom of moon 
In full bloom.
Soon strewn throughout, 
lupine seeds commune,
Leaving clues to ruminate
On what once grew 
Under lover’s rune.

Photo by Jessie Herman Haywood