Finches in the Morning

“Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind – listen to the birds.

And don’t hate nobody,” Eubie Blake




Watermelon tastes better cooled in a creek. The smell of sagebrush on the side of a windy hill better than perfume. I’m tempted to believe I’d write better if only I lived out of a camper with candles and a composting toilet.

Then I remind myself the negative voices will follow me even to Wyoming ghost towns and the only real key is to show up wherever, in whatever mood.

Head Stone


Sometimes I adopt graves. Her mom has the urn with her ashes. It’s just as well as I would probably treat it with a worshipfulness best put in the past. My great aunts and great uncles made me visit the family grave plots when I spent childhood summers in Wisconsin. I thought it creepy and, what’s more, boring. The pull to place gaudy plastic bouquets of flowers at a hunk of rock by a specific mound of dirt beyond my fathoming. I preferred to catch sunfish off the Atlas bridge.

Sometimes I am in need of a good visit. That’s why I now find calm communion in strange cemeteries beside strangers’ gravestones. There are almost always sparrows. Rarer times a bluebird or a towhee scratching through freshly mowed grass. My favorite cemetery in Murrieta is bordered by firethorns with clusters of hot orange berries in the autumn. There’s another in Beaumont with ancient cyprus trees the tour guide in Greece called the trees of sorrow.

It’s nice to read the lovely ways loved ones are memorialized. I wonder what would I have chosen to be chiseled for her. “Wife” but it wasn’t legal. “Partner” but it can sound like a business transaction. Soulmate, best friend, beloved… Maybe the most encompassing sentiment simply her name.¬†Yesterday she would have been fifty.

Yes, it’s best the urn with her ashes is elsewhere. The name and the all of her better carried within me. Sometimes it’s nice to visit strange graves. To pay respects and to leave fresh bouquets of roses from my garden like a secret admirer. So also is it reverential to go home and harvest garlic–to close the cemetery gate and leave the headstone behind.