wild grapes by alan levine

Wild grapes photo by Alan Levine, public domain


Bird Woman, brave woman,
sixteen years old and
explorer of unknown frontiers.
Baby on your back.
mother-wit finding
food, medicine, plants, berries,
paths through mountains to the big water.


Helen Ann, dreaming of adventures,
rides a fat pony
around the yard and into the woods.
Branches grab her braids, and
brother hears her cries,
rescues, laughs,
names her Sacagawea because
she loves the woods and wilds.


90 degrees in the shade,
Aunty takes us wading,
digging river clams,
picking gooseberries in the bushes,
chokecherries from scrubby trees.
Showing us the way—college, career, even
Blazing new trails as surely as
Bird Woman did.


Together, we forage fall fencelines,
tramp the forty,
pick wild grapes,
bake Christmas cookies.
Who knew this would be the last time?


Sacagawea silver dollar in my wallet
to remember you both forever.



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Driving Vermont – October 8, 2017

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People in Vermont kept apologizing to us: the host at Red Barn Loft, the man behind the counter at the Maple Museum gift shop, the coffee shop owner – just about anyone who found out we were tourists.

“Sorry about the foliage,” they’d say. “It’s just been too hot, too late this year. The leaves aren’t what they should be. Sorry.” As if it were their fault. And as if it were true. Continue reading

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Impressions of Boston, Part 2 – October 7, 2017



Street sign in the old Italian neighborhood of North End

A Minnesota governor, whose name I wish I could forget, said St. Paul’s streets were laid out by a drunken Irishmen. He should see Boston! Continue reading

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Impressions of Boston – October 6, 2017

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Boston is old.  As a Minnesotan, I feel history as something that happened in the time of my great-grandparents, back a hundred and fifty years ago. In Boston, history goes back 400 years. Here is Christ Church, where George and Martha Washington worshiped, with a bullet hole from the Revolutionary War still preserved next to the door. In that same church, Martin Luther King, Jr. preached against the Vietnam War, eloquently connecting the issues of racism and poverty at home and imperialism and war abroad. Continue reading

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Eight life lessons: Don’t take your pressure cooker to the airport

Instant Pot

Inspired by today’s news* and memories of yesterday’s good advice:

  1. Eat your peas. There are children starving in [fill in the blank with country of choice.]
  2. Never send money to Nigerian princes, bankers, astronauts, or spies.
  3. Don’t talk to strangers.
  4. Don’t click on that link.
  5. Always wear clean underwear with no holes. You could get in a traffic accident and be taken to the hospital and you wouldn’t want the doctors to think you are a slob.
  6. Don’t take your pressure cooker to the airport. It might look like a fancy crock pot to you, but it looks like a bomb to TSA.
  7. Always say please and thank you.
  8. Just say no.


* [from today’s news] Operations at Terminal 2 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport returned to normal Wednesday after authorities found a suspicious item in the morning and evacuated the terminal, airport officials said.

The ticketing lobby and checkpoints reopened just after 6 a.m. after the Bloomington Bomb Squad cleared the item, which turned out to be a rice cooker. The man who left the cooker behind was arrested, said airport spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski. X-rays revealed the rice cooker contained only spices.

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Rhubarb Season


Pioneer’s pie plant –
elephant ear leaves and ruby stalks yield
double-crusted pies with artful slashes to let out steam.
Grandma’s garden, gone to the city, yields
sauces and scones, muffins and mimosas, cakes and chutneys:
Millie’s thoroughly modern

Pull rhubarb or chop it close to the ground.
Cut leaves from stalks,
and bring the stalks into the kitchen.
Discard the broad leaves:
They contain oxalic acid,
a strong poison.

Old Noah Webster knew his pie plant,
and also knew how to keep up with the times, naming
Rhubarb, in baseball,
“a bench clearing brawl.”

From dugout to
dug-in plutocrats, politicos,
clearing the benches
swinging wildly/slinging mud
tweeting a
one-man rhubarb,
all leaf, no stalk.

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mock orange blossoms

Twenty-nine years ago
friends overflowed the yard, front and back,
as deep purple clematis climbed the wall and
bountiful blossoms covered the mock orange bush.

Over the years we
said goodbye to that clematis,
and to my dad, his dad, aunts and uncles.

Over the years we
put down roots, and
planted peonies, ferns, tulips, trees,
and children.

A few friends remain.
The mock orange blooms again today,
though showing its age,
as we are.

Twenty-nine years together
watching the world change
outside our doors
inside our hearts.


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