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You say pouring out my heart
is not poetry.
Then I ask what is?
Is it poetry to walk with a sign
yelling about jesus?
whispering sweet nothings
to your lover?
making rhymes in colder climes?

I say poetry is a tempest in a teapot
a calamity in the nursery
the dissolution of a marriage
the death of a child
a heartbeat stilled in the prime of life
the pain of a life lived in vain

Who are you to say what isn’t poetry?
My life is poetry
words swallowing words
ouroborous without
beginning or end

I can say anything.
It’s my life expressed
just this way.
It’s poetry if I read my shopping list

My poetry is my story.
I will never tell someone
not to tell their story.
Tell your story
however you can

Tell it with a poem,
with a song, with your life
but tell your story.

My life is to heal my wounds
offer my gift, offer my heart

My story is a poem.
Your story is a poem.
Someone needs to hear it

© Julian Spalding ©2011


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Mystic Warrior

[This poem was written as ekphrasis for this image of a sculpture by Rafael Vega at Dragonfly Blue Gallery, Taos, New Mexico.]

Visitor from beyond time,
feathered turtle-horse
from jungle and desert:
macaw, saguaro, bovine.

Cohoba shaman of cosmic vision,
green serpentine converser with gods.
Emerald forest shapeshifter.

Wooden cow creature, you don’t fool me,
you come to change everything.
Your spear of truth severs my head,
stone beads cover my heart,
dead and living worlds collide,
the dead world dissolves
into world of ancestor and spirit.

Wrap me in your wooden arms,
suck out the world,
tear me apart,
infuse me with knowledge,
put me back together,
new, alive, eager.

Julian Spalding ©2019

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more haiku

Sagebrush shimmers
in high desert wind
The dog sniffs

Adobe abode shelters
New Mexico enchantment
Return to the desert

Clear blue high desert sky
Backdrop to magic land
Enchanted place of my dreams

High desert sage and piñon
crackling logs in fireplace
Calling me to put down roots

Piñon, cedar, aspen
Fuel for winter fires
Warms fragile bodies

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New Mexico haiku

The residue of my presence
lingers like a ghost in Ashland,
now a desert dweller

Once Ashland, land of my birth
now the high desert:
homebound once again

Madrone and manzanita
took root in my mind,
now sagebrush and cactus

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Inner Peace is achieved by following your heart’s longing. I know because my husband and I have made some drastic life changes due to following our inner guidance. Admittedly, I have wondered if our wandering ways are just “wanderlust” or are we truly following our hearts. How could we have left behind the beautiful home we built in the hills of New Mexico twenty years ago? It was intended to be our forever home we would never leave. Yet, when the inspiration struck, we sold our home and ten acres of wooded land and moved to southern Oregon! Why Oregon? Well, Ashland intrigued us and, after all, I was born in Ashland when it was just a little lumber town with a nascent Shakespeare festival. My parents met and married in Ashland and we lived on Mountain Avenue with a cow in the yard. And, after all, my Dad owned a lumber mill, the Sugar Pine Lumber Co., located on the site of the current Bi-Mart and Shop N Kart. The first time I stepped on the floor of those stores, I was reminded that my Dad’s mill sat on that very concrete in 1947 when he sold it and moved his family to Eureka to open another mill.

Our ten years in Ashland/Talent have been wonderful. We have hiked hill trails, attended plays, made friends and volunteered with several organizations, notably Lotus Rising Project, Rogue Rainbow Elders, Ashland At Home, Asante Hospice, Rogue Valley Manor and the new Holmes Hospice House. We bought a home in Talent, created a nourishing sanctuary and invited others to share the beauty of our lives.

Now, our hearts are longing again….this time to return to New Mexico, specifically to Taos. Why Taos? Well, Taos Mountain seems to be calling to us. I think it is about the spirituality of the high mountain desert, the ancient civilization that still lives there in relative harmony with the non-indigenous Anglos and Hispanics. We recently spent a week in Taos to determine if we were mad, bad or glad that we are considering leaving the town of my birth and relocating once again to a place where we will need to buy another home, make new friends, find new volunteer opportunities. We felt the pull of the high desert, the connection with the land, the sense of proper place. In her beautifully written book,”if Women Rose Rooted,” Sharon Blackie writes, “one of the wounds dealt to us by the coming of the Wasteland is our severance from the land, the rupturing of the relationship between people and their places. The healing of the Wasteland requires a healing of this wound. Our Return, then, requires a place in which we can be grounded, rooted; a place in which our particular gifts and wisdom can flourish; a place in which we can fully embrace the natural world around us, and our part in it.”

For nearly forty years that place, for me, was New Mexico. And for ten years that place has been the beautiful Rogue Valley. And for some unknown and mysterious impulse, the siren call of the mountains of northern New Mexico is calling us home. I never anticipated this move in our 70s. We were here to stay. Yet, our hearts are longing for our proper place where we feel fully rooted and we can flourish. We leave this valley with a mixture of sadness, anxiousness about our sanity or lack thereof, expectation of adventures in a new, yet familiar place and heartful longing. Terry and I are saying goodbye to the home, friends and place that have nurtured us for the past ten years…. and setting sail for the Mystery of the Land of Enchantment that pulls at our heart strings so strongly.

We offer heartfelt thanks to all we have encountered here, the cousins we have deepened relationships with, the Oregon land that called to us ten years ago and the joy of living in my birthplace. What awaits us? That is yet to be discovered as the Mystery unfolds.

Peace be to all.

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aroma of morning coffee,
blood coursing
through my veins.

my lover’s touch
the scent of a rose
delicate essence

ginger orange marmalade
on morning toast.
door opening into my soul.

my evening walk,
cascading mist of
glimmering moonlight.

Breeze blows wisteria
Weeping blue atlas
Cries to the skies

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Whitewater, August 30, 2017

Before the inferno burning up southern Oregon and northern California, and long before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Terry and I had accepted an invitation to join friends on a whitewater rafting trip today on the Klamath River. The fourteen mile stretch was mostly I, II and III category rapids, with the lovely names of Satan’s Well, Hell’s Gate and other such endearing monikers. The sole category IV was called Ambush.

To clarify and simplify this rating process, all whitewater rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI. The rapids receive ratings based on a combination of difficulty and danger. I don’t think I’ve ever hit a class IV before. Believe me, it is intense. As soon as we hit the deep troughs, I flew out of the boat, along with a visiting German man who was on the same side behind me. The boat had tipped deeply into the trough and we tipped with it. It was a terrifying experience as I wondered if I would survive it. Of course, we were all wearing life jackets and mine kept me mostly above the water, but the whitewater was surging all around me, dragging me under, smashing me against the rocks. I was frantically trying to get to the boat to be dragged back in.

I had been Ambushed by the scariest and most intense class of rapids on this stretch of river. My husband was just as frantically trying to reach me to pull me out of the frothing tumult, which he did with the help of a friend in the raft. All told, I was likely only in the water a total of maybe two minutes, I don’t know for sure, but it felt much longer. I wasn’t at all sure I would be accompanying him back home after this ordeal. My gold earring which I had worn in one ear for about fifteen years was ripped off, now lying somewhere in the Klamath riverbed, or perhaps being eventually swept out to sea.

I found this explanation at http://wetplanetwhitewater.com/rafting/class-system/:
“The most important thing to remember with the classification system: it has nothing to do with how much fun a rapid is. The system is based on difficulty and danger, which do not always equate with the “fun factor” of a rapid. There are plenty of class III rapids that are more fun to raft than many class IV rapids.”

I can certainly attest to that! Encountering Ambush was anything but fun. It was terrifying. Fortunately our raft was being steered by an expert whitewater raftsman, without whom I probably would not have survived. Back home, safely ensconced in my sweet home with my man, I am nursing multiple bruises and sores, but luckily nothing was broken.

And I am reminded of the horrific fires burning all around the Rogue Valley, the homes that have burned, the wild animals that have perished, the intense smoke filling our valley for weeks and likely more weeks to come. And I watch the unfathomable devastation of Hurricane Harvey and those people and animals who succumbed to the flooding, and my travails seem petty by comparison. I’m just relieved to be safely home. And I’m sad that so many others in more dangerous circumstances may never find that safety.

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