From “Conversations with the Wind”

•September 15, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Karen McLaughlin

Milky Way over the Sleeping World
"Grandmother," I said,
"Who and what are sacred?
Who and what are not?"

She smiled at me a smile older than a thousand lives.
“Go tonight,” she said, “along the track,
That winds between the trees beside the lake
And the old man's fresh cut pasture.
You know the place I mean.
 
Breathe the fragrant dampness in the air,
Sweet as wild roses.
Be still and let your heart attend
To all that teems there in the dark.
Stand beneath the stars and ask again,
‘Who and what are sacred?’
 Who and what are not?”

Corn Moon Rising

•September 4, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Karen McLaughlin

Offshore, the freighters, sodium lamps alight, gather and wait,

Their engines murmuring like voices in the dark.

I have brought my camera and my tripod, this September evening,

To see the Moon rise from beyond the ships,

Beyond the islands and the trees;

Out of the sea

Where curve of the world drops away beneath Her.

I have brought my camera to the phosphorescent edge of things.

Where all things move in slow and curving grace,

To capture, if I can,

The image of a Woman with Her arms raised

As if She would embrace a trillion trillion stars.

Braiding Sweetgrass with You

•August 18, 2020 • Leave a Comment

On reading Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Milkweed Editions, 2013

I am trying to remember.

The grass that we gathered along the fenceline

Between the lane and the garden

I am trying to remember

The garden where we fell in love with the mysteries of plum trees and green growing things;

Where, creeping between cornstalks,

We heard silver-green leaves whisper like aunties

Who huffed and did not wish to be disturbed,

Their conversations meant only for each other’s ears

Those tall and tasseled presences shushing us back outside the gate

That creaked like an unoiled door between us and everything we loved and could not know.

I am trying to remember the fragrance of grass when we lifted it to our noses,

The bundles warm and damp in our hands,

Thick as the braid in your grandmother’s hair;

Then the two of us, forehead to forehead

You pulling gently to keep the braids tight,

My fingers separating the bond between us into three:

Earth, Spirit, and Sky;

Weaving plait over plait over plait,

Then helping you weave your skein in your turn

Breathing the sweetness of grass, and the world, and each other,

The two of us whispering (as the corn whispered)

Braided like sweetgrass, together.

I seem, in my age, to have forgotten if any of this could possibly be true

Or if ever the two of us, leaning forehead to forehead together

Taught our fingers to be nimble and wise.

I walk in a warm August wind through a garden full of whispers

Hoping they will teach this old woman’s heart to remember

The sweetness of braiding sweetgrass with you.

Age and the fragrance of sweetgrass

Will do that, you know.

Dragonfly

•May 25, 2020 • Leave a Comment

In many Indigenous traditions, the Dragonfly is associated with spiritual transition. Here we find her somewhere at the edge of light and dark; sun and stars; memory, hope, and dream.

Cuff in sterling and brass

by Karen McLaughlin

 

So lightly, in her flight, she pauses

To turn and coast downhill aslant

As dandelion or cottonwood seeds will upon the breeze

Or wind-cast blossoms glide the shadowed stream

All alike, had only seeds or blossoms will to pause

And purpose of their own

 

Tiny soul on iridescent wings

Glistening impossibility, risen from the mud beneath my pond

 

How long she labored, water borne, unseen

Until, impatient for her swelling wings to dry

She climbed, at last, an iris stem along the shore

Into this chattering world

Full of spiders’ webs, and finches and breath-stopping skies

 

Bright child of air

How sudden her flight, when it came at last

Mere memory, now, her touch upon the ground

I Plant my Seeds

•April 19, 2020 • Leave a Comment

April 19, 2020

I went out this morning to count my curly lilies. Four in bloom down below the cedar. Another half dozen where I planted them at the foot of the fir tree beside the driveway. Two more beneath the cedar up the hill, where in previous years, I’ve had more than a dozen or so in bloom. Too much shade now, perhaps, after all these years. Of the hundreds of seeds I have gathered and scattered over the decades, this is what I have to show for it. It’s disappointing. True, there are hundreds more growing, but they’re almost all barren. They produce leaves, but nothing more. It’s disappointing.

I brought them down out of the meadow on the ridge across the stream. Such a beautiful, delicate place it is, deep with moss, and the lilies in the hundreds, thousands perhaps, running down at the edge of the trees, a river of light, glowing in that dark green shade. How many soliloquies have played in my head as I’ve walked there over the decades? The things I imagine myself saying, if anyone were there to listen. Especially when I see the motorcycles and the 4x4s have been churning up the moss and the wildflower bulbs again, or I discover yet another dump of trash, and half-burned logs, and broken bottles. Now, of course, the whole area is slated for development. The signs are up. The surveyor’s tape flutters everywhere. The camas fields are all but destroyed. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t walk there anymore. It breaks my heart whenever I try.

Which brings me back to my curly lilies. I save what can: curly lilies, camas, chocolate lilies, once, even a precious few fairy slipper orchids, oh, so carefully moved, rescued from beside the 4×4 track and planted at the base of one of my own fir trees. They survived for three years, though they are gone now.

How carefully I planted them all. How lovingly. How hopefully I watched and waited for them to grow, but they do not seem to like it here, though happily the trilliums and the bleeding hearts are doing fine, and my few Garry oaks, planted as acorns continue, very slowly, to grow.

I wake each morning to watch the maple catkins unfurl again, grateful to find the wood ducks paddling shyly along the edge of the pond and the air pregnant with lilac and the honey-scent of cottonwood. Yet just beyond the trees, I hear the machinery battering at the very stones. The world lives, yet her children are dying around me, as abused and neglected children do. I plant my seeds with a kind of desperate resignation. They may not be happy here, but what else, I ask myself, can I do?

 

A Country Full of Bones

•March 8, 2020 • 1 Comment

Former home of the Dorset People, then the Beothuk. Both peoples centuries gone.

by Karen McLaughlin

 

We walk a beautiful, terrible place

Of wind and salt and a grumbling, restive sea.

Out of the bottle brush and wheatgrass,

The hill rises like a woman’s body from an ancient bog,

Flesh peeling from the bone.

 

This is a country full of bones.

Were I to turn my head, I would see them:

The dead who stand upon the soft, green peat and the hard, grey stone,

Their solemn, dark faces; their slim, dark bodies;

Their feet dissolving into the glistening damp:

Insistent presences who persist

Or have blown ashore,

Home from away, and away, and away.

Winterkill

•March 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

by Karen McLaughlin

 

Here, just before the snow, she fell and did not get up.

Maggots and ravens and the hunter soon lugged the guts away.

Even as the winter rains washed the blood from the grass.

Does she grieve, do you think, her lost flesh and bone,

Or, freed of its weight (and the ticks),

Is she simply surprised, so suddenly

To be done?

I Am

•March 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

SONY DSC

by Karen McLaughlin

I am the woman holding onto her hat in the wind,

The woman whose face you cannot see.

I am the secret whispered into a laughing child’s ear

I am the garden—every stem and stone and flower and tree.

I am the child searching for the missing letters,

I am reaching, reaching, reaching.

I am the exclamation mark at the bottom of the page.

I am the woman holding onto her hat in the wind,

The woman whose face you cannot see.

In This Country, Voices

•February 26, 2020 • Leave a Comment

View In This Country: Voices by Karen Mclaughlin

What happens when a seventy-year-old woman, picks up her camera and her pen, and travels four thousand miles to wander Newfoundland’s raw and haunted shores? What happens when she dares to ask the wind, the sea, and the stones, “Who are you, and what would you have me know?” The result is a collection of stunning photographs, poetry, and reflection that celebrates the mysteries of the land and the heart.

If you’ve been here before, you’ve already seen some of them, but there’s more. I invite you to have a look. Just click on the link below.

https://www.blurb.ca/b/9972838-in-this-country-voices

Parable

•February 25, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Parable

by Karen McLaughlin

Tell me of tellings and rich transformations

Of growings and ripenings and cold dyings back

Tell me of magic and dreams

And the legends that live in the heart and the night

Tell me again of the tree lit with stars

Whose roots reach deep into darkness and damp

Tell me again of the tree lit with stars

Who offers her branches up to the light