Living On Island Time

Summer on Galveston Island

Lake houses, beach houses, family cottages, long-loved resorts — even a congenially-staffed hotel: all provide ways for enjoying — or coping with — summer.

Connecticut Poet Laureate Dick Allen (1936-2017) remembers the experience, and implies a parallel or two, in a poem titled, “If You Get There Before I Do.”

Air out the linens, unlatch the shutters on the eastern side,
and maybe find that deck of Bicycle cards
lost near the sofa. Or maybe walk around
and look out the back windows first.
I hear the view’s magnificent: old silent pines
leading down to the lakeside, layer upon layer
of magnificent light. Should you be hungry,
I’m sorry but there’s no Chinese takeout,
only a General Store. You passed it coming in,
but you probably didn’t notice its one weary gas pump
along with all those Esso cans from decades ago.
If you’re somewhat confused, think Vermont,
that state where people are folded into the mountains
like berries in batter…
What I’d like when I get there
is a few hundred years to sit around and concentrate
on one thing at a time. I’d start with radiators
and work my way up to Meister Eckhart,
or why do so few people turn their lives around, so many
take small steps into what they never do,
the first weeks, the first lessons,
until they choose something other,
beginning and beginning their lives,
so never knowing what it’s like to risk
last minute failure…
I’d save blue for last. Klein blue,
or the blue of Crater Lake on an early June morning.
That would take decades. . . .Don’t forget
to sway the fence gate back and forth a few times
just for its creaky sound. When you swing in the tire swing
make sure your socks are off. You’ve forgotten, I expect,
the feeling of feet brushing the tops of sunflowers.
In Vermont, I once met a ski bum on a summer break
who had followed the snows for seven years and planned
on at least seven more. We’re here for the enjoyment of it, he said,
to salaam into joy…
I expect you’ll find
Bibles scattered everywhere, or Talmuds, or Qur’ans,
as well as little snippets of gospel music, chants,
old Advent calendars with their paper doors still open.
You might pay them some heed. Don’t be alarmed
when what’s familiar starts fading, as gradually
you lose your bearings,
your body seems to turn opaque and then transparent,
until finally it’s invisible—what old age rehearses us for
and vacations in the limbo of the Middle West…
Take it easy, take it slow. When you think I’m on my way,
the long middle passage done,
fill the pantry with cereal, curry, and blue and white boxes of macaroni,
place the checkerboard set, or chess if you insist,
out on the flat-topped stump beneath the porch’s shadow,
pour some lemonade into the tallest glass you can find in the cupboard,
then drum your fingers, practice lifting your eyebrows,
until you tell them all—the skeptics, the bigots, blind neighbors,
those damn-with-faint-praise critics on their hobbyhorses—
that I’m allowed,
and if there’s a place for me that love has kept protected,
I’ll be coming, I’ll be coming too.


Comments always are welcome.


A Cooling Touch

Even bluebells dress in summer white

I’ve never seen a truly blue Texas bluebell (Eustoma exaltatum), although I have found the flower, also known as the showy prairie gentian, dressed in pale lavender, purple, and white. Often, the colors will combine in a single flower.

When I recently discovered a small group of white bluebells on a hot and steamy Texas afternoon, I couldn’t help smiling. Even in the heat, the flowers seemed crisp, cool, and elegant: the very opposite of their human admirer.


Comments always are welcome.

A Tisket, A Tasket…

Not a green and yellow basket, as the children’s nursery rhyme would have it, but a green and purple American basketflower (Centaurea americana).

Sometimes standing as much as five or six feet tall, it spreads along ditches in great colonies, appears as a single plant at the edge of parking lots, or scatters across fields. Its color varies from pink, to purple, to creamy white, but always there is the “basket” — the stiff, straw-colored bracts just beneath the flower head that look for all the world like a woven basket and provide its common name.

After weeks of fearing one of my favorite flowers would be in short supply in our area, it suddenly swept across the landscape in great waves. From every angle, at every stage, it’s a delight to photograph, with or without the insects that seem to enjoy it as much as I do.



Comments always are welcome.