The contemplative creature peeking out from the leaves is not the twelve-week-old puppy I brought home nine years ago. My first month with Angel—all twelve weeks old—meant taking her out at 2:00 a.m.and then hearing her little yap two hours later, eager to leave her crate and play. Weary, I decided to set my CD alarm a few minutes before 4:30, hoping that maybe Angel would link Mozart for Meditation with wake-up time. Over a period of two months, her rising time stretched from five, to ten, and then to fifteen minute intervals. On a winter morning, just after 7:00 a.m., I opened an eye to check on her. Chrysanthemum face uplifted, inky eyes wide open, Angel sat silently. I smiled to myself. Oh, my goodness, she’s waiting for“Flute Concerto.”
Classical music became part of her waking, sleeping, and time-alone. By six months, Massenet, Elgar, and Brahms had serenaded her. Schubert and Mendelssohn sang her to sleep. Mozart and Chopin awakened her. I learned soon enough that not all classical music soothed her. If violins rose in frenzy, if trumpets blasted in triumph, she dragged her orange orangutan into another room.
She still prefers the mellow adagio and lullaby.
Tonight, with her black snub nose and alert, furry face, Angel watches me strum my dulcimer. Sometime during the Welsh classic “All through the Night,” she turns onto her back, relaxed and trusting. Contented. Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all though the night. Guardian Angels God will send thee, all through the night. After her walk, kibble-meal, and play-time with her stuffed owl, she’s ready to nestle among those jasmine leaves or curl up on her pillow, sure that Mozart’s flute and oboe will arrive any moment now to sing her to sleep.
The tales of Portland can be told in strokes of pink and orange, but that is only part of the story. The homeless couple sleep in Keller Park and wash themselves in the fountain. Young men in scuffed shoes haul bags full of cans and bottles. Down the block from the KOIN, Bridgetown bakers prepare my favorite pumpkin muffins and at PSU Mark readies his cart to sell smoothies. Dogs rise with their owners for the morning walk and both Yorkie and Great Dane mark trees outside City Hall.
I had planned to re-read Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield this year. Instead, I find myself in a classroom, teaching A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens makes sure that 18th century Paris and London have their own stories—tiny ones of self-important lawyers and frightened seamstresses, tales of protectors like Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry, and heroes like Dr. Manette and Sydney Carton.
What remains a constant with Dickens and me is the city. For this one term at St. Mary’s Academy, I rise with the dawn, walk Angel, relish my muffin and coffee, and watch light spread. Then it’s time to go to work. No more gazing from eight stories up. My walk is not only through literature, but on asphalt, part of the bustle and grime, the excitement and sadness that exists side-by side in the heart of any city in any century.
At twilight, sand, sea, and driftwood open
like a workshop for carpenters. Wind and rain
have chiseled snake hair on logs thrown
against a dune. Near ocean’s edge are birds
carved–beaks broken, bright eyes whipped
and polished. Forever, they gaze seaward,
heads cocked (one to the left, the other to the right)
waiting, (bristled feathers wood-wet)
for mother tide to teach them how to fly.
Like Durer, I will cut my own Apocalypse
from wood drifting, shifting here and shape
horsemen (armor swirled, meticulous),
or whittle something simple: perhaps a cup
for tea. I warm my hands, prepare, and
feel a pulse in the heart of my palm.
Salt air and starlight sting. I find the lap
of a log, silken, grooved for rest and
my bench of block, knife and rasp—
tools required to take a piece of driftwood,
whittle it, fragile as a wishbone. I close my eyes
and whisper one desire beneath the moon.