Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Novel

I wrote a novel, years ago
Then put it safe away,
To take a little break from it,
Then edit it, someday.

But life got going here and there
And there and here again.
And so it sat, upon my shelf
An old, forgotten friend.

I question reading words I wrote
Some fourteen years ago.
Should I revise it as I planned,
Or shred and let it go?

Copyright 2009 Penny L Kjelgaard

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Sorrow

I had that dream again last night, the one where autumn leaves are driven to the ground by a furious, forceful wind. And in it I watch, helpless and mourning, the summer die before my heart is ready to bid it farewell. Sometimes I have this dream in the springtime, and I wake with such sorrow I feel an oppressive load on my chest the day long. This time it is August, past mid-summer when the sun’s angle is waning toward the south again, back to where it dwelt in May, my great month of anticipation. And again, I feel the dreaded panic in my heart: summer is leaving me again.

I once raced headlong into autumn with full anticipation of school friends, holidays and color-bursting foliage. The clear October skies and sweet scents of decaying leaves held the greatest gift this earth could ever bestow upon me. But that is in the past. I still love autumn, but find it increasingly difficult to get over the last weeks of summer hump. I’d prefer to slide back down that hill and climb July all over.

I was not a fan of hot weather in my childhood. Indeed, until I left Upstate New York, I had no clue that summers could be anything but oppressive and downright unbearable. The rushing autumns of the northeast invigorated me, reviving me from the intense survival mode of the muggy summers. Puget Sound summers in Washington State, however, made me fall in love with torrid, baking days and chilly, refreshing nights. The difference is humidity. There is a rainy season and a dry season here. It rains in winter, all winter. Snow storms are infrequent and usually short and light. In summer, the opposite: hot dry weather with infrequent rain from June through September. The first summer I was here the sun shone every day for 60 uninterrupted days. It is this perfect summer I passionately cling to until the first chilly sniff of autumn air. It is this summer I dream about losing, sometimes before it starts.

I have never understood the sorrow, though I am familiar with its burden I carry in my heart. I sob in this recurring dream, knowing that summer is over before I can rejoice in it. In the dream, I have gone to sleep in the spring and awakened in the full throes of autumn, distraught, cheated and betrayed. When I wake in real life, I struggle the entire day to shake off the emotions; they are so deep. Last night I saw a steady shower of golden leaves dropping against a clear blue sky, the sun lighting their path to the ground. When I woke, I had to address the fact that summer is again waning and will be here only a few more precious weeks. Why is this my greatest fear?

Does summer represent the carefree days of childhood? But, childhood seems so long ago, and I was not a sun worshiper. Perhaps these are my carefree days of middle age: reading in the front yard, peeking at the birdfeeders, watching the hot air balloons at dusk. My mind argues with my heart, “The year has it order, a cycle of birth and sleep.” But in these middle years, I would vote for summer to follow summer, again and again and again.

Does summer represent Heaven, the great reward for a life well lived, the tranquility I long for? Some days, I admit, sitting in my yard, breathing the summer air and the music of wind tickled leaves, I think that Heaven must like this- but better than the best summer day. When autumn comes, it all dies and I reflect “will I feel this content again after I die?”

“Just move some place where it’s summer all the time,” I tell myself, impatient with emotion and wallowing. It could be that easy, I suppose. But where? The desert where life is desperate for water? Or make a compromise and stay temperate, but move to the high desert, where at least the sun shines more in the winter. Is it the cold or the clouds?

It has to be something deeper.

And so, in my desperation, I grieve, then realize that time does not stop, the summer does not linger, and to dwell on this self-indulgent dilemma is destructive. After all, I am a survivor, and so is summer. It comes year after year, fighting for birth some times, gliding on a breeze at others, but true to its return in some form when the sun is high in the sky. It is true that the earth, the seasons, even the hours of the day, contain more ‘in-between’ times than peaks and troughs. Perhaps people do as well. I smile because autumn is long here, as well as spring. Winter is short and gray compared to New York standards, and summer, well, summer is my great friend: a song in my heart.

And I will sing it while I live.

Penny L Kjelgaard copyright August 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mourning Dove

I was Laughing Rain
before rain
during rain
after rain

I rambled

a mourning dove
in Washington
in Colorado
In Utah

soft strains
cool comfort

I am Mourning Dove

not because
I love the rain less

I sing to strangers

Penny L Kjelgaard copyright 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

23 June 2009

Today my eyes feast upon farmland: the breadbasket of Washington state. The wheat fields of the Columbia Plateau roll to the horizon dressed in summer green, the sprouts knee high in their young life. I've seen mountains, deserts, canyons, oceans, forests, and mighty rivers, but when I see farmland, I forget all the rest.

I assume this is the result of growing up in semi-rural upstate New York, where most of the cleared land is planted or pasture. The cities and hamlets are surrounded by crops, sweet corn mostly, though other vegetables are planted, too. I distinctly remember scrambling behind a tractor snatching up newly dug potatoes at Botcher's Gardens in Big Flats.

My daughter and I watch a few dust devils miles away. Some are young and vibrant, spiraling in tight formation. Others are old and sloppy, dust falling through the air as the funnels fall apart. This is not something we saw much of in New York, as the soil was heavy with humus. Out here, the loess, or glacial silt, is the reason for the dust. It is also reason for the vast fields of grains that grow in its fertile domain. When the tiny grains break down, they release minerals, making a rich, nutritious soil. But, blow the wind does, and it's common to see a tractor at the head of a large flurry of loess, plowing the vast open fields for planting. And of course, all that open space and wind is the reason for the eddies that grab the dust and dance with it.

So I feast for a small time, bracing myself against the wind and the rest of the road trip that I have just begun. In 9 days I'd be back home after 3000 or so miles and 6 states. And I wonder to myself, how much farm land will I see? Will it be as wide open as this or tucked into contours like fields back home? What will grow there? How will the fields be watered? How, indeed, do farmers make the desert bloom?

Only the miles will tell.

Copyright 2009 Penny L Kjelgaard

Sunday, April 5, 2009


A shining beacon on a hill
A gathering of the worthy
A place to shelter from the world
A residence of Spirit
A Holy House of deity
A work for those passed on
A conduit of earnest prayer
A stillness of reflection
A site where blessings overflow
A temple of Our God

copyright 2009 by Penny L Kjelgaard

Thursday, April 2, 2009


When out of pain I strive to be,
When eye balls pop and teeth do throb,
I chance upon a pill to see…
Methinks that it will do the job.
Vicadin, O Vicadin, your brilliant talents do I seek!
My superhero you will be. I beg; defeat this migraine streak.

Copyright 2009 Penny L Kjelgaard

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Here We Go Again

I finally packed my holiday decorations and stowed them in their yearly coffins. Christmas has gone the way of all the melted snow, Valentine's Day has come and gone, and President's day arrives. Then it's onto our blustery month of March, with our advancing into the evening with Daylight Savings time followed St. Patrick's Day and the spring equinox. Through the frigid February ground, the crocuses and daffodils have started poking their green heads here and there. A month from now, they'll be in full bloom and I'll be mowing the lawn again. Yep, spring is on the way.

With it I think of the myriad plans I always have...and the myriad diversions I always manage to discover. Do I really need to pull those weeds? Surely they'll wait a month or two...and they do come out more easily when they're bigger. See, I don't have to bend over so far and irritate my back! In fact, if I wait long enough, I won't have to bend over at all...

This year's foremost plan is to get soil into my retaining wall. I have to call someone to haul it in this week, and hope they don't clean out my savings. The planting area has been void of soil for 3 years. I've had plants in it for two, with little mountains of composted earth surrounding their roots. I lost some viburnum davidii this winter, along with some euonymous fortunei and a dwarf New Zealand flax I never planted. The best laid plans of a sporadic know the tune.

Another plan is that square foot garden I've always wanted. I cleared out some Shasta daisies last year, banishing them to the waiting yards of friends, and made room for the two 4' by 4' raised beds I've planned on. I'll be barking in the grass surrounding them, so that will decrease my mowing time by five minutes. But, what's five minutes when it comes to mowing?

That leads to my next project: mowing the back yard. I didn't do it last year. I decided that, since no one used the yard, I'd leave it to itself and spend my time on more fruitful endeavors, like hiking in the Olympic rainforests. Well, it looks terrible. I'll have to buckle down and hack my way through it before it gets too green again. I'm resigned to the fact that 'au natural' just isn't in the cards for this yard. Too bad, really.

But with the approaching seasonal shift I'll enjoy the warmth again, and the smell of the soil. I always feel so alive when I'm one on one with my garden, settling new plants in with a tamp, some water and a "welcome to my garden...grow well." I'll breathe deeply the fresh wind and turn my face skyward to absorb the gentle, vernal sun. Surveying my kingdom proudly, I'll sigh at the end of the day, reacquainting myself with the earth I love so well. And I'll be content.